March 2014 Archives

That is it for the night

Long day -- usual Monday shopping run and some other stuff.

Heading upstairs to an early bed and back to work tomorrow...

Life is great but I am just a bit tired tonight -- have been for the last couple of evenings.

A very cool bit of archeology

From Discovery:
1,300-Year-Old Egyptian Mummy Had Biblical Tattoo
A mummy of an Egyptian woman dating back to 700 A.D. has been scanned and stripped to reveal a tattoo on her thigh that displays the name of the biblical archangel Michael.

The discovery, announced by researchers at the British Museum over the weekend, was made during a research project that used advanced medical scans, including Computed Tomography (CT) images, to examine Egyptian mummies at a number of hospitals in the United Kingdom last year.

The woman's body was wrapped in a woolen and linen cloth before burial, and her remains were mummified in the desert heat. As deciphered by curators, the tattoo on her thigh, written in ancient Greek, reads Μιχαήλ, transliterated as M-I-X-A-H-A, or Michael.

Curators at the museum speculate that the tattoo was a symbol worn for religious and spiritual protection, though they declined to offer additional details.
A lot more at the site. There was quite the cross-pollination of cultures. It will be wonderful to read whatever book comes out of this and subsequent discoveries.

Memo to self - target stands

Tip of the hat to Bearing Arms.

Pot meet Kettle - minimum wage

From Watchdog:

On minimum wage issue, Vermonters must choose between Ben & Jerry or Vermont's grocers
The decision on whether to hike Vermont's minimum wages may come down to whom lawmakers trust the most: hometown heroes Ben and Jerry, or Vermont's grocers.

At a recent gathering at the Capitol, Ben & Jerry's co-founder Ben Cohen endorsed H.552, which would raise Vermont's minimum wage from $8.73 to $12.50.

Nice folksy people selling Ice Cream -- c'mon, who doesn't like Ice Cream. Ben and Jerry versus the evil one percent. The capitalists. Now, let's hear from an eeeevil corporation:

Jim Harrison, president of the Vermont Grocers Association, echoed those claims in comments made to Watchdog.

"Labor is the largest single cost in the retail business, and there's no magic," Harrison said. "Food margins are very slim -- they're in the neighborhood of 1 percent to 1.5 percent after all expenses, and the only way to get that money back is either not give raises or benefits that you do to your full-time employees, or cut jobs or hours, or increase prices. None of those scenarios is very attractive."

I own a small rural grocery store and labor is my highest expense. Now, let us follow the ice cream Money:

As a leader in corporate social responsibility over the years, Ben & Jerry's has led by example. The company offers full-time workers a starting wage of $16.13 an hour. However, relative to the grocery, retail, and restaurant industries, the ice cream business has few low-wage employees, making even a steep minimum wage hike of no real impact on costs.

They run a largely automated factory with a couple highly trained operators and corporate management.

A look at how the minimum wage would affect Ben & Jerry's scoop shops is revealing.

In a written statement to Watchdog, Sean Greenwood, director of public relations at Ben & Jerry's, said that the company starts its non-full-time scoopers at $9.73  and pays full-time scoopers -- those who work approximately 40 hours per week -- a livable wage of $16.13.

How many full-time scoopers work for Ben & Jerry's in Vermont?

The company owns just three scoop shops in Vermont. In calls made to Ben & Jerry's parlors across the state, Watchdog learned that one scoop shop in Burlington has about a dozen scoopers -- one works full time and thus is eligible for the $16.13 livable wage. The Rutland store has just five scoopers -- only one works full time.

Unlike the situation at Ben & Jerry's, businesses with hundreds of low-wage workers could experience significant costs from a wage hike.

So Ben and Jerry's is a perfect example of the one percent. A crony capitalist. They donate money to progressive politicians and in return, receive tax loopholes and legislation that would bar any new company from coming up to compete with them. Don't forget that Ben and Jerry's sold out to English and Dutch mega-corporation Unilever back in 2000. Talk about being Tha Man.

Spring is around the corner

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Spent a few hours today walking in the fields with Lulu and the dogs. Checked out the garden and started compiling a mental list of stuff that needs to be done this April. Got the germination lights set up in the garage and took a look at the gardening hand tools. Start some seedlings this week. I store scissors wrapped in newspaper with a film of motor oil. Trowels and pokey things get shoved into a barrel of sand with motor oil. Everything looks great - no rust to deal with. Waited too long to prune the apple trees so I will need to do a quick and dirty prune and deal with the suckers next winter. Cherry trees look awesome but need dormant spray -- looks like we have a couple days dry weather this coming week so will take care of these chores then. Having a quick dinner (leftover spaghetti and a salad) and then off to a Water Board meeting. They keep electing me President so I keep showing up -- it's been six years now...

Here comes France

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Paris may be in trouble (see next post) but the rest of France seems to be waking up. From Yahoo News/Agence France‑Presse:
Black Sunday for France's Socialists as far-right breaks through
France's ruling Socialist Party suffered humiliating losses Sunday in a local vote marked by breakthrough successes for the far-right National Front and the historic election of a first female mayor of Paris.

On a day dubbed "Black Sunday" by one Socialist lawmaker, the National Front (FN) won control of at least eight towns and was on track to claim 1,200 municipal council seats nationwide, its best ever showing at the grassroots level of French politics.
They have their work cut out for them but if they can turn France around, it will be proof that socialism is not a viable option.

There goes Paris

From Yahoo News/Agence France‑Presse:

Socialist Anne Hidalgo to be first female mayor of Paris
Anne Hidalgo, a Spanish-born Socialist, will be the first female mayor of Paris after an unexpectedly comfortable win in municipal elections on Sunday.

Hidalgo, 54, had been expected to be run extremely close by her centre-right rival, former government minister Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet, on a night when the Socialists took a beating from voters across the country because of the unpopularity of President Francois Hollande's government.

Francois Hollande may be unpopular but large cities trend towards people who want handouts and socialists love to give handouts. Case in point:

Hidalgo has promised major investment in housing, transport and green spaces, with the aim of reversing a middle and working class exodus to the suburbs.

She has promised to create 10,000 new social housing units and 5,000 kindergarten places.

Her administration will also have a distinctly Green tint to it as a result of a deal she did after the first round. Under the pact, the Greens are expected to double their representation on the council that oversees the mayor's work and take around one fifth of the deputy mayor posts on the city's executive.

And she is doing this with whose money? The exodus mentioned is the end result of a war on the middle-class. We have it here in the USA as well. The rich don't see any real difficulties as they are insulated from economic troubles. The ruling class sees to it that they stay that way by barring entry into the market for potential competitors as well as passing targeted legislation to lower the tax burden of contributors. The socialists want to have an all-controlling state taking care of the poor from cradle to grave. The middle-class represents a 'messy problem' to them as the M.C. wants nothing to do with any form of Government and just wants to be left alone. Push beyond a certain point and I am outta here!. It will be interesting to see the exodus over the next couple of years. People keeping their Paris house and living 51% of the time somewhere cheaper.

Braying ninny - Rowan Williams

You may remember the name, he used to be the Archbishop of Canterbury. From the UK Telegraph:

The rich West is ruining our planet
The storms that have battered parts of the UK this year and left hundreds of people facing the misery of flooded homes and ruined land have again brought questions about the impact of climate change to the forefront of the public consciousness. And this week the whole question has been put into still sharper focus, as the world's leading climate scientists publish a report on the subject putting our local problems into a deeply disturbing global context.

Actually, you are wrong. The number and intensity of large storms has been declining for the last 15-20 years. The damage costs have been rising but there are two factors in play:
#1) - inflation -- the costs to rebuild are going up because the cost of labor and building materials are going up and
#2) - people are building more in dangerous areas. They want the nice view but do not accept that they are building in the path of major storms.


The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the world's leading body of scientists in this area, will be pointing out that, appalling as the experiences of recent months have been here, we have in fact got off relatively lightly in comparison with others. It is those living in the typhoon-prone Philippines or in drought-ravaged Malawi who are being forced not only to deal with the miseries of flooded homes and prolonged disruption, but to make fundamental changes in their way of life.

Actually, draft copies of the IPCC Working Group II report have been released and that is not what it says at all. Read Matt Ridley's article at the Wall Street Journal for more. The IPCC is seriously backpedaling. More:

We have heard for years the predictions that the uncontrolled burning of fossil fuels and the consequent pouring of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere will lead to an accelerated warming of the Earth. What is now happening strongly indicates that these predictions are coming true; our actions have indeed had consequences, consequences that are deeply threatening for many of the poorest communities in the world.

Carbon Dioxide is the Gas of Life. Without it we would have no plant life and no algae in the ocean. No corals either. Recent studies put the optimal level at around 700ppm and the Earth has had as high as 9,000ppm. This produced the abundance of vegetation that became our great coal beds. The US Navy runs our submarines with about 8,000ppm CO2 with zero adverse effects (page 6 of this document) and indeed, tests on volunteers have shown that deleterious effects only start showing up around 250,000ppm. More:

The waves that destroyed railway lines in the South West and the record-breaking rainfall that flooded homes and led to the Severn and the Thames bursting their banks show what we can expect as average temperatures increase worldwide.

What Dr. Williams fails to bring to the table is that what flooded were canals that had been used for transportation during the industrial revolution. They were dredged on a regular basis but this dredging has not been maintained. England established a large system of channels to carry water and did not -- in recent times -- keep them maintained to their capacity. Now they scratch their heads over the flooding. (here, here, here and here)

The rest of Dr. Williams' piece is equally clueless so I'm going to stop here. Why he considers himself to be an authority on this subject is beyond me. Classic Dunning/Kruger effect.

He should be loudly mocked and driven into the river...

Election fraud - a three-fer

First - from the San Diego, CA ABC affiliate KGTV:

Local couple upset after receiving pre-marked voter registration card from Covered California
A local couple called 10News concerned after they received an envelope from the state's Obamacare website, Covered California. Inside was a letter discussing voter registration and a registration card pre-marked with an "x" in the box next to Democratic Party.

The couple -- who did not want their identity revealed -- received the letter and voter registration card from their health insurance provider Covered California, the state-run agency that implements President Obama's Affordable Care Act.

And how many people would just drop that in the mail and be done with it. Second -- from Fox News:

4 Indiana Dems charged with election fraud in 2008 presidential race
Felony charges related to election fraud have touched the 2008 race for the highest office in the land.

Prosecutors in South Bend, Ind., filed charges Monday against four St. Joseph County Democratic officials and deputies as part of a multiple-felony case involving the alleged forging of Democratic presidential primary petitions in the 2008 election, which put then-candidates Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton on the Indiana ballot.

The damage is already done. Toss them away for a long time -- pour encourager les autres. Thirdly -- from New York City's DNAinfo:

Former Campaign Workers for Bronx Councilwoman Arroyo Charged with Fraud
Three former campaign workers for Bronx Councilwoman Maria Del Carmen Arroyo's reelection bid were charged with forging nearly 100 signatures, including Derek Jeter's and Kate Moss', on the candidate's primary ballot petitions, according to the Bronx District Attorney's Office.

The follow-up should be interesting -- they are looking at up to seven years behind bars. They will sing like canaries...

Happy tenth birthday Arduino

Today is Arduino Day and is the tenth anniversary of the release of the original Arduino specifications. Long ago, in a galaxy far far away, I did a couple of projects designing and programming embedded systems (primarily the Intel 8051 and I got my start on the MOS 6502 with the KIM-1). The Arduino brings this up to date. This article at IEEE Spectrum gives a little bit of the history:

The Making of Arduino
The picturesque town of Ivrea, which straddles the blue-green Dora Baltea River in northern Italy, is famous for its underdog kings. In 1002, King Arduin became the ruler of the country, only to be dethroned by King Henry II, of Germany, two years later. Today, the Bar di Re Arduino, a pub on a cobblestoned street in town, honors his memory, and that's where an unlikely new king was born.

The bar is the watering hole of Massimo Banzi, the Italian cofounder of the electronics project that he named Arduino in honor of the place. Arduino is a low-cost microcontroller board that lets even a novice do really amazing things. You can connect an Arduino to all kinds of sensors, lights, motors, and other devices and use easy-to-learn software to program how your creation will behave. You can build an interactive display or a mobile robot and then share your design with the world by posting it on the Net.

The beauty is that it was designed to be very expandable. The circuit board is a specific size with two rows of sockets on each side. You can build or buy add-on boards (called Shields) that extend the functionality of the Arduino. Because these are open source and so prevalent, the bar to entry is dirt cheap and a lot of fun. Even Radio Shack sells them. A bit more from the Arduino website:

What is Arduino?
Arduino is a tool for making computers that can sense and control more of the physical world than your desktop computer. It's an open-source physical computing platform based on a simple microcontroller board, and a development environment for writing software for the board.

Arduino can be used to develop interactive objects, taking inputs from a variety of switches or sensors, and controlling a variety of lights, motors, and other physical outputs. Arduino projects can be stand-alone, or they can communicate with software running on your computer (e.g. Flash, Processing, MaxMSP.) The boards can be assembled by hand or purchased preassembled; the open-source IDE can be downloaded for free.

The Arduino programming language is an implementation of Wiring, a similar physical computing platform, which is based on the Processing multimedia programming environment.

The Arduino is not a stand-alone computer as we know it -- it is an embedded system designed to do a few tasks. There are similar systems out there that run Linux and are more suited to general-purpose computing (Raspberry-Pi / Beaglebone) but those are different stories entirely. Very cool stuff!!!

Cannot think of anyone better for the post

From The Voice of Russia:
Darth Vader nominated by Internet Party to run for Ukrainian presidency
Darth Vader nominated by the Internet Party of Ukraine to run for president has submitted documents to the Ukrainian Central Elections Commission for being registered as a presidential candidate.
Darth Vader has submitted the entire package of documents, including that confirming the payment of 2.5 million hryvni as a monetary deposit, the CEC told Interfax.
Hence, 14 potential presidential candidates had submitted their documents to the CEC as of Saturday noon, and 5 of them have already been registered as candidates.
Lord Vader is serious in this endeavor. 2,500,000 Ukrainian Hryvnia (UAH) is equal to 227,250 US Dollars (USD). I am betting that we are looking at 25,000.00 UAH instead -- a more manageable 2,272.50 USD. Vladimir is strong but no match for the Force.

And the lights are on for an hour

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Got most of the house lights on for the next hour. Earth Hour is a grandstanding event - no practical purpose and it spreads a false narrative. We could have safe, abundant, cheap, pollution-free energy at our fingertips if only we had educated people in power. Instead, we have out-of-touch, power-hungry bureaucrats... Sigh.

Ford's reply

I had written earlier about this great Cadillac commercial touting the benefits of hard work and capitalistic spirit:

Well, some friends of Ford Motor Co. just replied and it's great:

From the Detroit Free Press:

Ford ad agency mocks Cadillac ad in YouTube video
The Ford advertising agency has filmed a YouTube video that parodies the controversial Cadillac ELR commercial of a middle-aged man boasting about America's worth ethic and consumer culture by featuring a philosophizing Detroit environmentalist.

The satiric piece was spearheaded by Ford's ad agency, Team Detroit, and showcases the Ford C-MAX at the end.

Starring in the original Cadillac ad is actor Neal McDonough, who's filmed walking through a luxurious home. At the center of the faux ad is Pashon Murray, founder of Detroit Dirt, a sustainability consultancy and advocacy group, who's first seen standing amid mounds of dirt and mud and later is shot in a cramped apartment hallway.

"The C-MAX is sending a message about where we're going in the future and caring about conserving resources. This is a movement about changing Detroit and practicing sustainability. That's why they came at me," Murray said, explaining how Team Detroit chose her.

Heh -- I love my Ford but I also love Capitalism and making money and, caring for the environment effectively is crucial. Nothing wrong with any of the above.

The true cost of

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Excellent essay by Dr. Bj�rn Lomborg:
The Poverty of Renewables
According to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, �Climate change harms the poor first and worst.� This is true, because the poor are the most vulnerable and have the least resources with which to adapt. But we often forget that current policies to address global warming make energy much more costly, and that this harms the world�s poor much more.

Solar and wind power was subsidized by $60 billion in 2012. This means that the world spent $60 billion more on energy than was needed. And, because the total climate benefit was a paltry $1.4 billion, the subsidies essentially wasted $58.6 billion. Biofuels were subsidized by another $19 billion, with essentially no climate benefit. All of that money could have been used to improve health care, hire more teachers, build better roads, or lower taxes.
The burden of these policies falls overwhelmingly on the world�s poor, because the rich can easily pay more for their energy. I am often taken aback by well-meaning and economically comfortable environmentalists who cavalierly suggest that gasoline prices should be doubled or electricity exclusively sourced from high-cost green sources. That may go over well in affluent Hunterdon County, New Jersey, where residents reportedly spend just 2% of their income on gasoline. But the poorest 30% of the US population spend almost 17% of their after-tax income on gasoline.
Emphasis mine -- and these high costs are preventing the unemployed from commuting to work. I live 30 miles from Bellingham and that's a couple gallons of fuel each round-trip. Some more:
In Germany, where green subsidies will cost �23.6 billion this year, household electricity prices have increased by 80% since 2000, causing 6.9 million households to live in energy poverty. Wealthy homeowners in Bavaria can feel good about their inefficient solar panels, receiving lavish subsidies essentially paid by poor tenants in the Ruhr, who cannot afford their own solar panels but still have to pay higher electricity costs.

The list goes on. In Greece, where tax hikes on oil have driven up heating costs by 48%, more and more Athenians are cutting down park trees, causing air pollution from wood burning to triple.

But climate policies carry an even larger cost in the developing world, where three billion people lack access to cheap and plentiful energy, perpetuating their poverty. They cook and keep warm by burning twigs and dung, producing indoor air pollution that causes 3.5 million deaths per year � by far the world�s biggest environmental problem.

Access to electricity could solve that problem, while allowing families to read at night, own a refrigerator to keep food from spoiling, or use a computer to connect with the world. It would also allow businesses to produce more competitively, creating jobs and economic growth.

Consider Pakistan and South Africa, where a dearth of generating capacity means recurrent blackouts that wreak havoc on businesses and cost jobs. Yet the funding of new coal-fired power plants in both countries has been widely opposed by well-meaning Westerners and governments. Instead, they suggest renewables as the solution.
Emphasis mine -- talk about hypocrisy. These 'leaders' would never live there but they feel they have the ability to manage those people's lives for the greater good. Ideas so good they have to be mandatory...

Cool technology - riotNAS

There is a lot of rioting in Venezuela as the people are finally saying no to the repressive socialist regimes of Chavez and his hand-picked successor Madura. Needless to say, those in power do not want any hint of the size and scope so the police are instructed to confiscate any cameras.

Enter this clever hack (NAS - Network Attached Storage):

riotNAS: Mobile Storage for Street Photography
You're likely aware of the protests and demonstrations happening throughout Venezuela over the past few months, and as it has with similar public outcries in recent memory, technology can provide unique affordances to those out on the streets. [Alfredo] sent us this tip to let us know about riotNAS: a portable storage device for photos and videos taken by protesters (translated).

The premise is straightforward: social media is an ally for protesters on the ground in these situations, but phones and cameras are easily recognized and confiscated. riotNAS serves up portable backup storage via a router running OpenWRT and Samba. [Alfredo] then connected some USB memory for external storage and a battery that gives around 4 hours of operating time.

For now he's put the equipment inside a soft, makeup-looking bag, which keeps it inconspicuous and doesn't affect the signal. Check out his website for future design plans - including stashing the device inside a hollowed out book - and some sample photos stored on the riotNAS system. If you're curious what's going on in Venezuela, hit up the Wikipedia page or visit some of the resources at the bottom of [Alfredo's] site.

The Wikipedia entry has a sobering list of what has been happening. This is the end-game of socialism writ large.

Looks like an interesting movie

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From the website:
Meet Petri Luukkainen, 26. Amidst an existential crisis, he arrives at the idea that his happiness might be found by rebuilding his everyday existence. What does he really need � and what about all that stuff?

The concept: Take all of your stuff into a storage, and bring back only one item per day. The result? An everyday adventure driving him deeper and deeper into the empty spot in his heart. You�re right: this would be borderline insane even without his decision of constantly filming himself.

Buck naked at his flat in Helsinki, it�s another story � not a pretty one but pretty damn fun to watch.
And a tip 'o the hat to Bayou Renaissance Man. I would never be able to do this -- I spend too much time in the physical world doing and making things -- stuff defines me.

A festival of lights tonight

Tonight is Earth Hour and the enviros are asking people to turn off their lights from 8:30 to 9:30PM local time.

Why in Gods name would we fall prey to such a political grandstanding.

I'm firing up the furnace and turning on all the lights for an hour.

If I wanted to live in perpetual darkness, I would emigrate to North Korea.


What he said

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Shark Tank�s Kevin O�Leary: �The Wealth in America Doesn�t Come from Government�
Kevin O�Leary from ABC�s hit show �Shark Tank� eloquently and persuasively destroys many of the myths of the �1 percent� and describes in personal detail how many of the small businesses he works with have to spend nearly $20,000 to $30,000 a year complying with federal regulations.
Hat tip to The Foundry.

Quake in California

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It was only a 5.3 but it was only 1km deep so the effects will be felt a lot more. Puente Hills thrust fault right near La Habra and Brea near Long Beach - no further news...

Ho Li Crap was that a great show

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Lulu and I went to see the Pink Floyd Experience tonight and it was one of the best shows I have seen in a long long time. They only have two more dates on this tour but they tour once/year so make plans to see them next Winter. They not only duplicated the Pink Floyd sound and played their music, they improvised and did extended versions of their songs and it was absolutely true to the spirit of the original Pink Floyd (saw them live twice). We brought her son and son's girlfriend and needless to say, they had a great time. Having a glass or two of wine and heading upstairs -- lots of stuff to do this weekend...

That's it for the day

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Heading into Bellingham soon for some music and it will be a late night so no posting.

Talk about stupid - from the Lewiston, Maine Sun-Journal:

New FDA rules may cut long-standing ties between beer makers, farmers
America's booming brewing industry and farmers alike are bothered and befuddled by a proposed U.S. Food and Drug Administration rule change that could alter a partnership that dates back to Neolithic times.

In Maine and across the country, brewers and farmers have formed handshake agreements: Brewers brew beer, producing barrels or truckloads full of heavy, wet spent grains. These grains have been heated up to extract sugars, proteins and other nutrients that go on to make beer. The process is called mashing. The spent grains are a byproduct - with no real usefulness purpose left for the brewer.

To the farmer, spent grains are a valuable dietary supplement for their livestock. It-s common for breweries to reach out to local farms to offer up their spent grains as animal feed. Most often, farmers are happy to oblige, picking up the spent grains themselves a few times per week. Little or no money exchanges hands during these deals. Brewers are glad to get rid of the grain, and farmers are glad to take it off their hands.


The proposed rule is aimed at "ensuring the safety of animal food for animals consuming the food and ensuring the safety of animal food for humans handling the food, particularly pet food," according to the FDA.

It requires facilities producing animal food to have written plans that identify hazards, specify steps to minimize those hazards, and monitor and record the safety of the feed.

"FDA understands that many breweries and distilleries sell spent grains - as animal food. Because those spent grains are not alcoholic beverages themselves, and they are not in a prepackaged form that prevents any direct human contact with the food, the Agency tentatively concludes that subpart C of this proposed rule would apply to them," according to the FDA rule.

Most small and medium-sized brewers wouldn't be able to follow these rules without significant investment. Breweries that want to send their spent grains to farmers would have to dry, package and analyze the grains, all without it touching human hands. These efforts would cost brewers money, time and resources, making it too much of a hassle for some to continue partnerships with farmers, according to critics.

This is nothing about animal food safety. This is about allowing commercial feed companies to sell more product.

This has Archer Daniels Midland and Cargill's names written all over it. The ruling is here: FSMA Proposed Rule to Establish Current Good Manufacturing Practice and Hazard Analysis and Risk-Based Preventive Controls for Food for Animals

Politics as usual in California

From the New York Daily News:

California State Sen. Leland Yee charged with promising guns, missiles from Muslim group to agent for campaign donations
A California state senator has been arrested for promising shoulder-fired automatic weapons and missiles from a Muslim separatist group to an undercover FBI agent in exchange for campaign donations, according to court documents unsealed Wednesday.

In San Francisco, FBI agents have charged California State Sen. Leland Yee with conspiracy to deal firearms and wire fraud. The allegations were outlined in an FBI affidavit against Yee and 25 others. The allegations against Yee include a number of favors he requested in exchange for campaign donations, as well as performing "official acts" in exchange for donations to get himself out of a $70,000 debt incurred during a failed San Francisco mayoral bid, according to court documents.

Yee discussed helping the undercover FBI agent get weapons worth $500,000 to $2.5 million, including shoulder-fired automatic weapons and missiles, and showed the agent the entire process of how to get those weapons from a Muslim separatist group in the Philippines into the United States, according to an affidavit from FBI Special Agent Emmanuel V. Pascua.

Of course, the article fails to mention the Politcal Party of Mr. Lee and that would be Democrat...

How to destroy America

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The text is from a speech that Governor Lamm gave ten years ago when introducing Victor Davis Hanson - audio at the end:

Vaccines in the news

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From the Bellingham Herald:
Travelers warned about measles outbreak in B.C.
Travelers are being warned about a measles outbreak just over the border in the Fraser Valley in British Columbia.

The number of confirmed cases in the Fraser Valley East communities totaled 237 as of Wednesday, March 26, according to B.C. public health officials.

People going to the area should make sure their immunizations are up to date, the Whatcom County Health Department warned in a news release.

The majority of cases is related to a private school with a high number of unvaccinated children, and the outbreak hasn't spread much beyond the Fraser Valley East communities.
Looks like some households are learning about Herd Immunity. The threshold for Measles is 83�94%. Measles is airborne. Stupid human...

More training today

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Spent the morning doing more training for Western Union. Everyone I have dealt with have been knowledgeable and really good people. Fun fun fun! Take Grace for a walk, have a late lunch and then some recreational surfing. Heading into town this evening for some music.

Outstanding in their fields

From Ag Web:

Tech Heist: Seeds of Deceit
Crouched on his hands and knees under an Iowa sky, Mo Hailong quickly dug in the rows of freshly planted seed corn. Just the day before, May 2, 2011, he and coworker Wang Lei, vice chairman of Kings Nower Seed of China, stopped at this same field near Tama, Iowa. The farmer told them he was planting seed corn.

With each shovel, Hailong found pay dirt: DuPont Pioneer's latest parent genetics, the building blocks for the next generation of high-yielding hybrids. The men hoped these seeds would help their own company keep up with global competition.

Mo's head snapped up as a truck approached, dust billowing behind. A DuPont Pioneer field manager pulled over and hopped out as Mo rose from his knees. The field manager questioned what Mo was doing, to which he gave a well-rehearsed response, "We're on our way to a research conference." It's an answer he had used before, but this time, with dirt under his nails and seeds in his pocket, he knew its effectiveness was compromised. Using the difference in culture and native languages, Mo tried to mask further suspicion. Then, the field manager's phone rang. As he turned away, Mo hurried to Lei, waiting in the rental car. He jumped in and Lei swung the car around on the narrow dirt road. The field manager looked up from his phone to see the car and two Chinese nationals racing away.

That chance encounter with two Chinese nationals sneaking around rural Iowa raised the suspicion of DuPont Pioneer security officials. The FBI investigation that ignited ultimately busted an elaborate seed heist in America's heartland.

The intense investigation culminated Dec. 12, 2013, when the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Iowa charged six Chinese nationals with conspiracy to steal trade secrets from and commit overt acts against DuPont Pioneer, Monsanto Company and LG Seeds. As the nearly 50 pages of court documents spell out, this stealth operation was more than an uncoordinated smash and grab. Page after page unfolds in great detail, much like a spy novel, demonstrating the lengths these men took to steal U.S. seed technology.

The defendants are alleged to have conspired to steal inbred corn seed from the three companies and transfer the seed to China. The estimated value of an inbred line of seed is five to eight years of research and a minimum of $30 to $40 million.

Much more at the site -- the Chinese Government is not our friend.

Melowese Richardson in the news

You may remember her as the Cincinnati poll worker who voted multiple times in the 2012 Presidential election. From this July 19, 2013 FOX News entry:

Cincinnati poll worker sentenced to 5 years for voter fraud in presidential elections
She boasted that she voted twice in last November's presidential election. She was charged with repeatedly voting illegally over three elections using the names of others, including her sister who has been in a coma for a decade.

Now 58-year-old Melowese Richardson, a veteran Cincinnati poll worker, will be spending the next five years in prison for voter fraud.

"You were the lifeguard, to make sure the system was conducted fairly, the greatest system on earth, the free election system," declared Court of Common Pleas Judge Robert P. Ruehlman, who sentenced Richardson to the five-year term. She faced up to 12 years behind bars after pleading no contest to four state counts in May.

"Your job was to make sure it was conducted fairly, but what did you do? You used this position of lifeguard, this position of trust to vote illegally."

Segue to this March 22, 2014 entry in the Cincinnati Enquirer:

Both parties jeer embrace of fraudulent voter
A Hamilton County poll worker who has been held up nationally as an example of voter fraud took the stage at a local voting rights rally � outraging Republicans and dismaying even top local Democrats.

The Rev. Al Sharpton, keynote speaker at Thursday's rally to kick-off the campaign for an Ohio Voters' Bill of Rights Ohio Constitutional amendment, even hugged Melowese Richardson.

Richardson, a Democrat, was convicted of voter fraud after using her position as poll worker to vote more than once in the 2012 presidential election. She got a five year prison term, but was released earlier this month after local Democratic activists pressed for a fairer term.

And a bit more:

Richardson was among the more than 400 at Word of Deliverance Church in Forest Park when Cincinnati National Action Network President Bobby Hilton called her on stage for a "welcome home."

The last paragraph is of interest. I wonder if the Church enjoys a 501(c) (3) status. From the following IRS Publication: Tax guide for Churches and Religious OrganizationsPage 7:

Political Campaign Activity
Under the Internal Revenue Code, all IRC section 501(c)(3) organizations, including churches and religious organizations, are absolutely prohibited from directly or indirectly participating in, or intervening in, any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for elective public office. Contributions to political campaign funds or public statements of position (verbal or written) made by or on behalf of the organization in favor of or in opposition to any candidate for public office clearly violate the prohibition against political campaign activity. Violation of this prohibition may result in denial or revocation of tax-exempt status and the imposition of certain excise tax.

Pages 5-6:

Substantial Lobbying Activity
In general, no organization, including a church, may qualify for IRC section 501(c)(3) status if a substantial part of its activities is attempting to influence legislation (commonly known as lobbying). An IRC section 501(c)(3) organization may engage in some lobbying, but too much lobbying activity risks loss of tax-exempt status.

A church or religious organization will be regarded as attempting to influence legislation if it contacts, or urges the public to contact, members or employees of a legislative body for the purpose of proposing, supporting, or opposing legislation, or if the organization advocates the adoption or rejection of legislation.

And the condemnation from the Attorney General?


* * * * * crickets * * * *

Now this looks like fun!

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From The Daily Caller:
Feds spent $700,000 on a climate change musical
It looks like the National Science Foundation has been handing out grants for some unorthodox research projects, according to House Republicans.

This includes $700,000 in funding for a climate change musical.

House Science Committee Chairman Lamar Smith questioned White House science czar John Holdren in a Thursday hearing over whether or not the National Science Foundation (NSF) should have to justify its use of taxpayer dollars to fund projects. Smith pointed out some examples of questionable projects the NSF has funded.
  • $700,000 on a climate change musical
  • $15,000 to study fishing practices around Lake Victoria in Africa
  • $340,000 to examine the �ecological consequences� of early human fires in New Zealand
  • $200,000 for a three-year study of the Bronze Age around the Mediterranean
  • $50,000 to survey archived 17th Century lawsuits in Peru
  • $20,00 to look at the causes of stress in Bolivia
�The Administration�s willful disregard for public accountability distracts from the important issues of how America can stay ahead of China, Russia, and other countries in the highly-competitive race for technological leadership,� said Smith, a Texas Republican.

�All government employees and their agency heads need to remember they are accountable to the American taxpayer who pays their salary and funds their projects,� he added. �It is not the government�s money; it�s the people�s money.�
John Holdren is an idiot and a Malthusian but I repeat myself. My Dad was a physicist and I remember when the National Science Foundation funded real science and not politically correct gestures.

Fun times - my left toe

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Had a hangnail and got it cut out this morning. The anesthesia is starting to wear off -- feels like someone is pounding the tow with a foam-rubber mallet. Time to do some bookkeeping -- the pain of dong that will make me forget the pain in the toe...
From The Weekly Standard:
Condi Rice Blasts Obama on Weakness, Leadership
Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice accused Barack Obama of dramatically weakening the United States' position in the world, drawing a straight line between Obama�s ever-yielding foreign policy and the increasing troubles around the world.

�Right now, there�s a vacuum,� she told a crowd of more than two thousand attending the National Republican Congressional Committee�s annual dinner last night in Washington, D.C. �There�s a vacuum because we�ve decided to lower our voice. We�ve decided to step back. We�ve decided that if we step back and lower our voice, others will lead, other things will fill that vacuum.� Citing Bashar al Assad�s slaughter in Syria, Vladimir Putin�s aggression in Ukraine, al Qaeda�s triumphant return to Fallujah, Iraq, and China�s nationalist fervor, she concluded: �When America steps back and there is a vacuum, trouble will fill that vacuum.�

Rice � measured in tone, but very tough on substance � excoriated Obama administration policies without ever mentioning the president by name. She mocked the na�ve hope that �international norms� would fill the vacuum left by U.S. retreat and blasted the president for hiding behind the weariness of the public.
I would have loved to have been a fly on that wall. I wish that we had people like her and John Bolton running our State Department. The world would be a much quieter and peaceful place...

Another Borlaug two-fer

Dr. Borlaug has been cropping up all over the web. First -- from Atomic Insights comes this story of one of Borlaug's contemporaries:

John Tjostem - GMOs & Atomic Fission Enable a Sustainable Future
During a discussion on Atomic Insights, I encountered a man whose recipes for a sustainable future need greater distribution. John Tjostem is an advocate of technologies that enable disruptive abundance and a more rewarding life for a growing portion of the world's population.

After growing up on South Dakota farm in the 1930s and 1940s, where he began operating equipment and doing a man's job almost as soon as he could reach the pedals and levers, Tjostem went to college at North Dakota State. He earned a Master of Science in microbiology and a PhD in botany with a focus on plant physiology. He taught at Luther College in Decorah, Iowa from 1962-2000 and has now 'retired' to his family farm.

In the fall of 2011 and spring of 2012, he published a two part article in Agora titled A Recipe for a Sustainable Future, Part I and A Recipe for a Sustainable Future, Part II. Part I focuses on modern agriculture including the use of computerized spreaders that use precise GPS positioning systems and the use of biotechnology including genetically modified organisms (GMO). Part II describes nuclear energy as a clean, abundant energy source that can replace fossil fuels.

These thoughtful articles describe ways to use human ingenuity and sound science to provide abundant living for a growing portion of the world's population, even in the face of a rapidly depleting supply of readily available hydrocarbons.

In part I, Tjostem takes aim at the 'back to the land' agricultural system prescription offered people like Amory Lovins, Paul R. Erlich, Dennis L. Meadows, George Mobus, Jeremy Rifkin and Walter Youngquist.

Tjostem's agricultural hero is Norman Borlaug, the Green Revolution icon and a man whose statue in the US Capitol building was just unveiled yesterday on what would have been his 100th birthday. The technology that Borlaung introduced is what enabled the world to avoid the mass starvation event that Erlich predicted.

Dr. Tjostem's articles are very well worth reading:

A Recipe for a Sustainable Future, Part I
A Recipe for a Sustainable Future, Part II

Second -- from the Iowa City, Iowa Press-Citizen:

Norman Borlaug statue unveiled at U.S. Capitol
The leaders of both Iowa and the nation celebrated the legend of Norman Borlaug, Iowa's native son, at a ceremony today intended to honor the man credited with saving a billion people from starvation.

At the unveiling of a statue of Borlaug in the U.S. Capitol's National Statuary Hall, members of Iowa�s Congressional delegation praised Borlaug for the impression he and his work left on the world, which they said would inspire numerous others to seek the next breakthrough in agriculture.

Iowa U.S. Reps. Bruce Braley, a Democrat, and Tom Latham, a Republican, praised Borlaug for the impression he and his work left on the world, inspiring numerous others to seek the next breakthrough in agriculture.

"As Norman would remind us, 'our reward for our labors is not what we take from this planet, but what we give back,'" Democratic U.S Rep. Bruce Braley said.

How to avoid getting hit by a train

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Cute trick...

Its got rings

Quite the announcement this morning. From the European Southern Observatory:

First Ring System Around Asteroid
Observations at many sites in South America, including ESO's La Silla Observatory, have made the surprise discovery that the remote asteroid Chariklo is surrounded by two dense and narrow rings. This is the smallest object by far found to have rings and only the fifth body in the Solar System - after the much larger planets Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune - to have this feature. The origin of these rings remains a mystery, but they may be the result of a collision that created a disc of debris. The new results are published online in the journal Nature on 26 March 2014.

The rings of Saturn are one of the most spectacular sights in the sky, and less prominent rings have also been found around the other giant planets. Despite many careful searches, no rings had been found around smaller objects orbiting the Sun in the Solar System. Now observations of the distant minor planet (10199) Chariklo as it passed in front of a star have shown that this object too is surrounded by two fine rings.

"We weren't looking for a ring and didn't think small bodies like Chariklo had them at all, so the discovery - and the amazing amount of detail we saw in the system - came as a complete surprise!" says Felipe Braga-Ribas (Observatorio Nacional/MCTI, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil) who planned the observation campaign and is lead author on the new paper.

The telescopes used in the discovery are fairly modest -- the biggest is 1.54 meters aperture.

It will be interesting to see what some of the big guns can see - the W. M. Keck observatory on big island has two ten meter aperture scopes. Very cool!

A cautionary tale about computers

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So so true... From The Oatmeal:
Been there. Done that. Got the tee shirt...

Science jokes

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Popular Science has a great collection of science groaners:
I was going to tell a joke about sodium, but Na.

Two scientists walk into a bar. "I'll have an H2O," says the first. "I'll have an H2O too," says the second. The second man dies.

Why did the chicken cross the M�bius strip? To get to the same side!
More at the site...

About that Target data breach

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The lawyers are sharpening their knives -- from IT World:
Security vendor Trustwave named in Target-related suit
Security vendor Trustwave was accused in a class-action suit of failing to detect the attack that led to Target's data breach, one of the largest on record.

Target, which is also named as a defendant, outsourced its data security obligations to Trustwave, which "failed to live up to its promises or to meet industry standards," alleged the suit, filed Monday in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois.

Plaintiffs Trustmark National Bank of New York and Green Bank of Houston claim Target and Trustwave failed to stop the theft of 40 million payment card details and 70 million other personal records.

The lawsuit, one of dozens filed against Target, illustrates the growing frustration of banks burdened with the costs of reissuing compromised cards and their willingness to pull in other companies viewed as culpable into legal battles.
This is going to ripple throughout the entire eCommerce community. It is no longer the primary company at fault, now they are going after the security vendors. Scribd has the initial filing.

Oculus loses support - an epic rant

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An epic rant from Game developer Markus 'notch' Persson:
Virtual Reality is going to change the world
It�s amazing. You strap on some gear, and then you�re inside whatever world you want. It showed up in books, it showed up in movies, and everyone dreamed about it. Problem was, it kinda sucked. I tried Dactyl Nightmare at an amusement park, and it kinda sucked. Huge wires, unconvincing tracking, horrible visual fidelity. VR kept sucking for a long time, and people kinda gave up on it.

But then something happened. Or, well, it had already happened, but nobody realized. The technology was finally here to do proper virtual reality. The team behind Oculus Rift realized this, and built the first prototype of VR that was finally just good enough to be usable, and it was only going to get better and better. They set up a kickstarter to fund their enthusiasm, and a lot of people got excited. They made about ten times the money they asked for, and I was one of the top-level backers.
Much more and then Facebook:
Facebook is not a company of grass-roots tech enthusiasts. Facebook is not a game tech company. Facebook has a history of caring about building user numbers, and nothing but building user numbers. People have made games for Facebook platforms before, and while it worked great for a while, they were stuck in a very unfortunate position when Facebook eventually changed the platform to better fit the social experience they were trying to build.

Don�t get me wrong, VR is not bad for social. In fact, I think social could become one of the biggest applications of VR. Being able to sit in a virtual living room and see your friend�s avatar? Business meetings? Virtual cinemas where you feel like you�re actually watching the movie with your friend who is seven time zones away?

But I don�t want to work with social, I want to work with games.

Fortunately, the rise of Oculus coincided with competitors emerging. None of them are perfect, but competition is a very good thing. If this means there will be more competition, and VR keeps getting better, I am going to be a very happy boy. I definitely want to be a part of VR, but I will not work with Facebook. Their motives are too unclear and shifting, and they haven�t historically been a stable platform. There�s nothing about their history that makes me trust them, and that makes them seem creepy to me.

And I did not chip in ten grand to seed a first investment round to build value for a Facebook acquisition.
Competition is a good thing. As notch said, the technology is now where building a VR helmet is a simple thing and the software is not that complex. Get it to market and see what happens. It is a fun time to be alive.

More Borlaug - a two-fer

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Yesterday, I posted about Dr. Norman Borlaug. I found two other good mentions on the web this morning. First -- this 1997 article by Gregg Easterbrook at The Atlantic:
Forgotten Benefactor of Humanity
America has three living winners of the Nobel Peace Prize, two universally renowned and the other so little celebrated that not one person in a hundred would be likely to pick his face out of a police lineup, or even recognize his name. The universally known recipients are Elie Wiesel, who for leading an exemplary life has been justly rewarded with honor and acclaim, and Henry Kissinger, who in the aftermath of his Nobel has realized wealth and prestige. America's third peace-prize winner, in contrast, has been the subject of little public notice, and has passed up every opportunity to parley his award into riches or personal distinction. And the third winner's accomplishments, unlike Kissinger's, are morally unambiguous. Though barely known in the country of his birth, elsewhere in the world Norman Borlaug is widely considered to be among the leading Americans of our age.
Second -- this excerpt from Instapundit:
AN AMERICAN HERO: Remembering Norman Borlaug. Quoth Borlaug, who saved over a billion lives:
�(Most Western environmentalists) have never experienced the physical sensation of hunger. They do their lobbying from comfortable office suites in Washington or Brussels. If they lived just one month amid the misery of the developing world, as I have for 50 years, they�d be crying out for tractors and fertilizer and irrigation canals and be outraged that fashionable elitists in wealthy nations were trying to deny them these things.�
So true - the policy makers have no basis in fact. They have never cut a paycheck, have never balanced an account, have never really worked for a living...
UPDATE: I had forgotten that Penn & Teller did an excellent show on Dr. Borlaug. YouTube is posted at the end. Dr. Norman who? From Wikipedia:
Norman Ernest Borlaug (March 25, 1914 � September 12, 2009) was an American biologist, humanitarian and Nobel laureate who has been called "the father of the Green Revolution", "agriculture's greatest spokesperson" and "The Man Who Saved A Billion Lives". He is one of seven people to have won the Nobel Peace Prize, the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal and was also awarded the Padma Vibhushan, India's second highest civilian honor.
Some more:
Biologist Paul R. Ehrlich wrote in his 1968 bestseller The Population Bomb, "The battle to feed all of humanity is over ... In the 1970s and 1980s hundreds of millions of people will starve to death in spite of any crash programs embarked upon now." Ehrlich said, "I have yet to meet anyone familiar with the situation who thinks India will be self-sufficient in food by 1971," and "India couldn't possibly feed two hundred million more people by 1980."
Ehrlich was a Malthusian and Malthusians are always dead wrong. More:
The initial yields of Borlaug's crops were higher than any ever harvested in South Asia. The countries subsequently committed to importing large quantities of both the Lerma Rojo 64 and Sonora 64 varieties. In 1966, India imported 18,000 tons �the largest purchase and import of any seed in the world at that time. In 1967, Pakistan imported 42,000 tons, and Turkey 21,000 tons. Pakistan's import, planted on 1.5 million acres (6,100 km�), produced enough wheat to seed the entire nation's wheatland the following year. By 1968, when Ehrlich's book was released, William Gaud of the United States Agency for International Development was calling Borlaug's work a "Green Revolution". High yields led to a shortage of various utilities � labor to harvest the crops, bullock carts to haul it to the threshing floor, jute bags, trucks, rail cars, and grain storage facilities. Some local governments were forced to close school buildings temporarily to use them for grain storage.

In Pakistan, wheat yields nearly doubled, from 4.6 million tons in 1965 to 7.3 million tons in 1970; Pakistan was self-sufficient in wheat production by 1968. Yields were over 21 million tons by 2000. In India, yields increased from 12.3 million tons in 1965 to 20.1 million tons in 1970. By 1974, India was self-sufficient in the production of all cereals. By 2000, India was harvesting a record 76.4 million tons (2.81 billion bushels) of wheat. Since the 1960s, food production in both nations has increased faster than the rate of population growth. Paul Waggoner, of the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station, calculates that India's use of high-yield farming has prevented 100 million acres (400,000 km�) of virgin land from being converted into farmland�an area about the size of California, or 13.6% of the total area of India. The use of these wheat varieties has also had a substantial effect on production in six Latin American countries, six countries in the Near and Middle East, and several others in Africa.
Want an infographic?
And a tip of the hat to Borepatch for the link and this comment:
Alas, today's Left has made him a non-person, because his work made a laughing stock of Paul Ehrlich's "Population Bomb". If only Borlaug had the foresight and wisdom to have been born African-American, or perhaps trans-gendered, all would have been forgiven.
Sadly true... UPDATE: Penn & Teller on Dr. Norman Borlaug:

Now this will be interesting

From Mark Zuckerberg's Facebook page:

Mark Zuckerberg
I'm excited to announce that we've agreed to acquire Oculus VR, the leader in virtual reality technology.

Our mission is to make the world more open and connected. For the past few years, this has mostly meant building mobile apps that help you share with the people you care about. We have a lot more to do on mobile, but at this point we feel we're in a position where we can start focusing on what platforms will come next to enable even more useful, entertaining and personal experiences.

This is where Oculus comes in. They build virtual reality technology, like the Oculus Rift headset. When you put it on, you enter a completely immersive computer-generated environment, like a game or a movie scene or a place far away. The incredible thing about the technology is that you feel like you're actually present in another place with other people. People who try it say it's different from anything they've ever experienced in their lives.

From the Oculus VR website Blog:

Oculus Joins Facebook
We started Oculus with a vision of delivering incredible, affordable, and ubiquitous consumer virtual reality to the world. We've come a long way in the last 18 months: from foam core prototypes built in a garage to an incredible community of active and talented developers with more than 75,000 development kits ordered. In the process, we've defined what consumer virtual reality needs to be and what it's going to require to deliver it.

A few months ago, Mark, Chris, and Cory from the Facebook team came down to visit our office, see the latest demos, and discuss how we could work together to bring our vision to millions of people. As we talked more, we discovered the two teams shared an even deeper vision of creating a new platform for interaction that allows billions of people to connect in a way never before possible.

Today, we're pleased to announce that we've joined forces with Facebook to create the best virtual reality platform in the world.

At first glance, it might not seem obvious why Oculus is partnering with Facebook, a company focused on connecting people, investing in internet access for the world and pushing an open computing platform. But when you consider it more carefully, we're culturally aligned with a focus on innovating and hiring the best and brightest; we believe communication drives new platforms; we want to contribute to a more open, connected world; and we both see virtual reality as the next step.

Most important, Facebook understands the potential for VR. Mark and his team share our vision for virtual reality's potential to transform the way we learn, share, play, and communicate. Facebook is a company that believes that anything is possible with the right group of people, and we couldn't agree more.

This partnership is one of the most important moments for virtual reality: it gives us the best shot at truly changing the world. It opens doors to new opportunities and partnerships, reduces risk on the manufacturing and work capital side, allows us to publish more made-for-VR content, and lets us focus on what we do best: solving hard engineering challenges and delivering the future of VR.

Two billion dollars -- I really hope they keep their drive and produce an awesome end product. It would be a shame for this to wither on the vine. So many other VR projects have failed in the marketplace, this one has me hoping...

It was never about being environmentally sound, it was about concentrating power. Tragic that there should be such an unintended consequence to their actions. From the World Health Organization:
7 million premature deaths annually linked to air pollution
In new estimates released today, WHO reports that in 2012 around 7 million people died - one in eight of total global deaths � as a result of air pollution exposure. This finding more than doubles previous estimates and confirms that air pollution is now the world�s largest single environmental health risk. Reducing air pollution could save millions of lives.
China's air pollution is legendary but it is not the only problem:
After analysing the risk factors and taking into account revisions in methodology, WHO estimates indoor air pollution was linked to 4.3 million deaths in 2012 in households cooking over coal, wood and biomass stoves.
Cooking and heating because clean-burning petroleum fuels are too expensive. We need to generate our electricity with Thorium reactors, convert our vast quantities of coal to liquid fuel (Fischer�Tropsch) using the waste heat from the reactors. This simple change in policy would make the price of gasoline, diesel and heating oils plummet allowing them to be used for cooking and heating in third-world nations. The cheap price of energy would also allow these areas to electrify and would do more to advance public health and local economics than anything the nattering do-gooders are proposing these days. How do the environmentalists deal with the cognitive dissonance of their being directly responsible for seven million deaths each and every year...

From The Official Microsoft Blog:

Microsoft makes source code for MS-DOS and Word for Windows available to public
On Tuesday, we dusted off the source code for early versions of MS-DOS and Word for Windows. With the help of the Computer History Museum, we are making this code available to the public for the first time.

The museum has done an excellent job of curating some of the most significant historical software programs in computing history. As part of this ongoing project, the museum will make available two of the most widely used software programs of the 1980�s, MS DOS 1.1 and 2.0 and Microsoft Word for Windows 1.1a, to help future generations of technologists better understand the roots of personal computing.

Links here (MS-DOS1.1 and 2.0) and here (W4W1.1a) Busy today but I have downloaded both and will spend the next couple weeks going through the code. MS-DOS 1.1 is 296K of well commented assembly code in six files. Fun stuff!

From the Washington Free Beacon:
Obama to Kill Tomahawk, Hellfire Missile Programs
President Barack Obama is seeking to abolish two highly successful missile programs that experts say have helped the U.S. Navy maintain military superiority for the past several decades.

The Tomahawk missile program -- known as �the world�s most advanced cruise missile� -- is set to be cut by $128 million under Obama�s fiscal year 2015 budget proposal and completely eliminated by fiscal year 2016, according to budget documents released by the Navy.

In addition to the monetary cuts to the program, the number of actual Tomahawk missiles acquired by the United States would drop significantly�from 196 last year to just 100 in 2015. The number will then drop to zero in 2016.

The Navy will also be forced to cancel its acquisition of the well-regarded and highly effective Hellfire missiles in 2015, according to Obama�s proposal.

The proposed elimination of these missile programs came as a shock to lawmakers and military experts, who warned ending cutting these missiles would significantly erode America�s ability to deter enemy forces.

�The administration�s proposed budget dramatically under-resources our investments in munitions and leaves the Defense Department with dangerous gaps in key areas, like Tomahawk and Hellfire missiles,� said Rep. Randy Forbes (R., Va.), a member of House Armed Services Committee.

�Increasing our investment in munitions and retaining our technological edge in research and development should be a key component of any serious defense strategy,� he said.
This verges on treasonous. What are these people thinking? Every other major nation is building their military up not cutting back.

I love it - hope she wins big

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Great news from Canada

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From The Vacouver Sun:
Man tests negative for Ebola: WHO
A suspected case of the deadly Ebola virus in Saskatchewan has tested negative.

Tests also came back negative for Lassa, Marburg and Crimean Congo. The World Health Organization (WHO) tweeted the results Tuesday from its verified Twitter account.

Canada's deputy chief public health officer said in a release that tests at the Public Health Agency of Canada's National Microbiology Laboratory confirmed the ill man does not have Ebola or any other hemorrhagic viruses.
It was a severe case of Malaria. Dodged the bullet this time...

Unpacking boxes

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Getting the Western Union machines up and running - telephone training is set up for this afternoon and then, we will be live. Busy busy busy but fun.

Just wonderful - Ebola in North America

Possibility of a case of Ebola in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. I know about the current outbreak inland from the coastal city of Conakry, Guinea and that it had spread to neighboring Liberia. From The Vancouver Sun:

Ebola virus feared in man critically ill in Saskatoon
Public health officials may find out Tuesday what ails a man stricken with what may be Ebola virus.

The man, who was recently in the West African country of Liberia, is now critically ill and isolated in a Saskatoon hospital with a viral hemorrhagic fever, a top Saskatchewan public health official announced Monday.

"It's very dramatic and scary to hear about Ebola, but it's very unlikely to spread, and certainly, once the person is quarantined, it's very safe," University of Regina microbiologist Andrew Cameron said.

Included in the general class of viral hemorrhagic fevers are Ebola fever, Lassa fever, Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever, yellow fever, dengue fever, and Marburg hemorrhagic fever.

Health care workers have sent the patient's specimens to the national microbiology laboratory in Winnipeg for a diagnosis, said deputy chief medical health officer Dr. Denise Werker. Some test results are expected back today.

And There to Here for this Patient Zero was in something called an Airplane. A sealed tube that flies through the skies loaded with about 200 to 300 other poor souls; everyone breathing the same air for ten to fifteen hours. If this turns out to be true Ebola, it will be an interesting test of Canada's National Health system and I hope that Dr. Werker has a solid and tireless staff. I was trained as a biologist and epidemics are something I follow with a morbid curiosity. One will come here but I really hope that it is not now...

A new word in our lexicon - PEDNABSE

From Denny:

New Word
Ron coined a new word. It's PEDNABSE.
P promise
E everything
D deliver
N nothing
A and
B blame
S someone
E else
And as he sez: Encapsulates, defines, and expresses the essence of Obamunism, don�t it?

Alas, it's not just Obungler. It prolly fits half of the Republican Party as well.

We're doomed!

Goes well with BOHICA. Hard. No lube. No dinner.

Did the usual buying run into town and also had an appointment with my foot doctor. I have a big toe that is ingrown and time to do something about it.

Date set for this coming Thursday morning -- no heavy lifting for a few days after that...

Received part of the Western Union machinery this afternoon -- the machine to print the money orders and a box full of cool promotional merch. Still waiting for the computer Point of Sale system for the transactions and debit cards and stuff. Western Union has a fascinating history and with me being a major history of technology geek it is really fun to be connected with this enterprise.

BTW; that story about them turning down an offer to purchase A. G. Bell's telephone patents for $100,000 is a fanciful story. More here.

Busy last couple of days

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Got a lot of stuff done. Spring is coming and there are a lot of chores that need to be done -- a rebirth in the best sense of the word. Going to be a busy but productive summer...

Presented for your edification

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Definitely view full-screen... More at Ars Technica A big tip of the hat to Pater at Bayou Renaissance Man

Back to spring weather again

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Yesterday's snow accumulation was just an anomaly -- the ground is clear up to about 3,000 feet and it is a balmy 47�F outside. Heading out to get some suet cakes for the birds and some more rolled ration for the llamas. One of them is giving me the stink-eye through the kitchen window as I type. Still working on stuff at the house so posting will be light for now.

Beautiful music and visuals

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A potter's wheel:
From the Google Translate of the website:
Lap Dance
Michael Gardener, clay, potter's wheel, music, improvisation ...

From Michelle Stirling-Anosh writing at The Vancouver Sun:

Opinion: Time to rein in the climate change carbon baggers
The World Economic Forum, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank all continue to propagate a catastrophic scenario of future climate change. Can anyone forget the IMF's Christine Lagarde's infamous claim at the recent World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, that if we don't take action on climate change now, future generations will be "roasted, toasted, fried and grilled?"

One would think Lagarde - a lawyer by training, a profession founded on evidence - would not mislead billions of people in this immoral way. Even the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which has overstated the impact of carbon dioxide and the effect of human factors on climate change over the past 25 years, has never stooped this low.

Even NASA and the IPCC have acknowledged there has been a 16-plus year natural pause in global warming. Climate expert Roger Pielke presented evidence of no trend in extreme weather events to the U.S. senate committee on environment and public works in July.

Follow the money:

So many roads lead to Chicago, climate change, carbon and Lagarde's tenure at Baker and McKenzie, a Chicago law firm recognized "as one of the first global law firms to establish a climate-change practice." U.S. President Barack Obama spent over six years as a board member of the Joyce Foundation that financed the founding of the Chicago Climate Exchange, which eventually collapsed. The Joyce Foundation also funds TIDES and other ENGOs that loudly proclaim climate terror despite no scientific evidence.

But as Fox News reported in 2010, the collapse of the Chicago Climate Exchange simply meant a strategy shift, as the Obama administration is pushing ahead with a piecemeal approach to instituting carbon taxes.

Climate carbon bagging is a lucrative business for the right people. In a power-point presentation from 2007, Baker McKenzie gave us an example: a Chinese plant sells its emissions credits; a private fund and the World Bank buy them, then resell them through "the IM process" and the World Bank, raising "$1.2 billion in 23 minutes."

By contrast, the Financial Conduct Authority of the U.K. reported in September that not a single ordinary investor has made any money in carbon credits. Ordinary investors are not able to sell or trade carbon credits once acquired.

Being rich is fine for me but not for thee. Typical socialist effete.

Who ordered this?

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Came up for air to notice that it is snowing and sticking. Forecast calls for rain and 46�F. It is now 35�F air and 31�F ground.

A dogs reaction

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Great video - Finnish magician Jose Ahonen offers various dogs a nice treat but it then vanishes. Their reactions are wonderful:

Nothing much today

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Working on some projects around the house.

Bird Brains - Emperor Penguins

You can see the level of observation and cognition going on here -- fun stuff!
And I love that the tall guy who squawked at 0:38 was the only one to walk across the line at 1:15 -- Alpha -- hope some of those genes carry over good buddy!
From The Detroit News:
Detroit plans mass water shutoffs over $260M in delinquent bills
The Detroit Water and Sewerage Department has a message for Detroit residents and companies more than 60 days late on their water bills: We�re coming for you.

With more than half of the city�s customers behind on payments, the department is gearing up for an aggressive campaign to shut off service to 1,500-3,000 delinquent accounts weekly, said Darryl Latimer, the department�s deputy director.

Including businesses, schools and commercial buildings, there are 323,900 Detroit water and sewerage accounts; 164,938 were overdue for a total of $175 million as of March 6. Residential accounts total 296,115; 154,229 were delinquent for a total of $91.7 million.

The department halts cutoffs through the winter because of complications associated with freezing temperatures, such as damaged pipes. But this spring, a new contractor has been hired to target those who are more than two months behind or who owe more than $150 � twice the average monthly bill of $75.
Half of the accounts are delinquent. 52% of residential accounts. Don't these people have any care for the consequences of their actions? This is what years of Progressive, Democratic and Union management does. Every. Single. Time. Wisconsin was a Progressive state and it elected Conservative Governer Scott Walker. Walker has been in office less than four years and has brought the state out of a deficit, passed a $504 million tax-cut and is thinking about ending the State Income Tax. That is how you do it...

A bit of mismanagement to our North

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From The Vancouver Sun:
Portland Hotel Society audit finds hundreds of thousands of dollars in questionable expenses
Top managers at a Vancouver charity that�s supposed to help the poor in the Downtown Eastside have racked up hundreds of thousands of dollars in limos, overseas trips, meals, parties and other perks because of lax financial oversight, government auditors announced Thursday.

The two audits, conducted by Vancouver Coastal Health Authority and BC Housing, paint a picture of lavish expenses for Portland Hotel Society managers and directors at a time when the society � charged with operating many services for the Downtown Eastside�s at-risk population � is teetering on the verge of financial trouble and potentially unable to pay its debts.

Auditors also outlined the oversight of almost $29 million in government funds paid to PHS annually, which are supposed to be used to run low-income supportive housing and addiction services, but which were also spent for a variety of other expenses without proper approval or documentation by the society board of directors.
A bit more:
Managers and directors expensed more than $69,000 over three years on restaurants, and more than $300,000 on travel to Vienna, Paris, Istanbul, New York City, Los Angeles, Banff and Ottawa, among other locations. Hotel rooms of up to $880 per night were charged for trips to the United Kingdom and Austria, including flowers, alcohol and spa services.

There were also more than $8,658 in limo fees in 2013, a trip to Disneyland in Anaheim, a $5,832 cruise for a PHS manager, a $917 baby shower and a $7,025 �celebration of life� for a deceased employee.
I am continually surprised by people like this. Do they not realize that this kind of behavior is not sustainable and they will get caught. There is no exit strategy.

Handy tool - SystemRescueCd

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Download the ISO file and burn it to a CD-ROM or thumb-drive. Use the Linux OS to boot any Windows box and use the Linux tools to repair files, adjust partitions, do disk cloning (the best backup strategy) as well as some network tools. Check out SystemRescueCd

Very curious - underground home

From Popular Science:
Radar Will Scan NYC Park For A Buried Luxury Bomb Shelter From 1964
Is the Underground Home still underground? The New York City Parks Department doesn't think so, but others do. The home, built as an exhibit for the 1964-1965 World's Fair held in New York, has ardent fans who think it's still buried underneath the city's Flushing Meadows-Corona Park. Now, one expert is seeking the permits and funding to do a radar and/or camera survey to check.

As a certain fictional FBI agent would say, we want to believe. Why not? The Underground Home was a 12,000-square-foot, totally underground house built in the aftermath of the Cuban Missile Crisis, as Narratively reported in 2012. With an air filtering system its makers advertised as able to filter fallout particles, the Underground Home tapped into American fears of the times. In addition, the home had 10 rooms, windows made of screens that could show different scenes, and a Steinway piano. The Underground Home was both weird and baller.
I have always been fascinated by urban archeology -- this would be a fun find. The next World's Fair is 2015 in Milan.

The history of the movie camera

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Put together for the Society of Camera Operators 2014 annual award dinner. Gorgeous stuff from Eadweard Muybridge up through the latest technologies.

Dangerous website

Just got turned on to these people: Servo City Time to hide the credit card...
From the Google Blog:
Staying at the forefront of email security and reliability: HTTPS-only and 99.978 percent availability
Your email is important to you, and making sure it stays safe and always available is important to us. As you go about your day reading, writing and checking messages, there are tons of security measures running behind the scenes to keep your email safe, secure, and there whenever you need it.

Starting today, Gmail will always use an encrypted HTTPS connection when you check or send email. Gmail has supported HTTPS since the day it launched, and in 2010 we made HTTPS the default. Today's change means that no one can listen in on your messages as they go back and forth between you and Gmail�s servers�no matter if you're using public WiFi or logging in from your computer, phone or tablet.

In addition, every single email message you send or receive�100 percent of them�is encrypted while moving internally. This ensures that your messages are safe not only when they move between you and Gmail's servers, but also as they move between Google's data centers�something we made a top priority after last summer�s revelations.
Good for them! Nice that the internal transfer is encrypted as well. It will not stop decryption but it will slow it way down and make it impractical for casual use.

Dodging a bullet - solar storm

From The University of California, Berkeley:
Fierce solar magnetic storm barely missed Earth in 2012
According to University of California, Berkeley, and Chinese researchers, a rapid succession of coronal mass ejections � the most intense eruptions on the sun � sent a pulse of magnetized plasma barreling into space and through Earth�s orbit. Had the eruption come nine days earlier, when the ignition spot on the solar surface was aimed at Earth, it would have hit the planet, potentially wreaking havoc with the electrical grid, disabling satellites and GPS, and disrupting our increasingly electronic lives.

The solar bursts would have enveloped Earth in magnetic fireworks matching the largest magnetic storm ever reported on Earth, the so-called Carrington event of 1859. The dominant mode of communication at that time, the telegraph system, was knocked out across the United States, literally shocking telegraph operators. Meanwhile, the Northern Lights lit up the night sky as far south as Hawaii.

In a paper appearing today (Tuesday, March 18) in the journal Nature Communications, former UC Berkeley postdoctoral fellow and research physicist Ying D. Liu, now a professor at China�s State Key Laboratory of Space Weather, UC Berkeley research physicist Janet G. Luhmann and their colleagues report their analysis of the magnetic storm, which was detected by NASA�s STEREO A spacecraft.

�Had it hit Earth, it probably would have been like the big one in 1859, but the effect today, with our modern technologies, would have been tremendous,� said Luhmann, who is part of the STEREO (Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory) team and based at UC Berkeley�s Space Sciences Laboratory.

A study last year estimated that the cost of a solar storm like the Carrington Event could reach $2.6 trillion worldwide. A considerably smaller event on March 13, 1989, led to the collapse of Canada�s Hydro-Quebec power grid and a resulting loss of electricity to six million people for up to nine hours.

�An extreme space weather storm � a solar superstorm � is a low-probability, high-consequence event that poses severe threats to critical infrastructures of the modern society,� warned Liu, who is with the National Space Science Center of the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing. �The cost of an extreme space weather event, if it hits Earth, could reach trillions of dollars with a potential recovery time of 4-10 years. Therefore, it is paramount to the security and economic interest of the modern society to understand solar superstorms.�
Video from STEREO-A -- the CME looks like a halo because it was heading straight for the satellite. The STEREO website has some more.


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I am a time geek. The Atlantic just posted a wonderful interview of Dr. Demetrios Matsakis, Chief Scientist for U.S. Naval Observatory's Time Services.

Where Time Comes From from The Atlantic on Vimeo.

Having way too much fun - tuna melt

Filmed at the Ohage House in St. Paul, MN DJ A-Track

Well Dang!!!

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Just found out that the band YES is back together and on a tour. They are playing in Vancouver tonight. If I had known about this a day or two earlier, we would be in Vancouver right now waiting for the theater to open their doors... They are doing Canada and then off to Europe, no US dates for now. Also, they are organizing this: Cruise to the Edge Looks like a lot of fun -- five days at sea and being able to listen to Yes, Marillion, Steve Hackett, UK, Queensr�che, Tangerine Dream, Renaissance and more! These are some of my favorite bands from that era. Add Toto and I would be maxing out my credit card right now...

Money wasted - Climate Change

Want to know why so many people are pushing for climate change (used to be global warming)

Our government funds it to the tune of $20 Billion dollars per year!

From Junk Science:

Enviro Sugar Daddy II - Government spends 20 billion a year
The US Gov spends 20 billion plus annually to push climate/warming nonsense.

That's climate - and then there's EPA and other things related to enviro issues.

More at the site including a list of the top ten green organizations by total assets:

  1. Nature Conservancy - Total assets: $5,636,393,924
  2. The Conservation Fund - Total assets: $451,178,482
  3. World Wildlife Fund - Total assets: $426,048,663
  4. Trust for Public Land - Total assets: $399,026,229
  5. Conservation International Foundation - Total assets: $370,034,224
  6. National Audubon Society - Total assets: $337,695,958
  7. Natural Resources Defense Council - Total assets: $232,276,696
  8. Environmental Defense Fund - Total assets: $145,765,426
  9. Sierra Club Foundation - Total assets: $107,928,024
  10. National Wildlife Federation - Total assets: $69,448,048

Talk about hitting the jackpot.

From the UK Telegraph:

Chinese going for broke on thorium nuclear power, and good luck to them
The nuclear race is on. China is upping the ante dramatically on thorium nuclear energy. Scientists in Shanghai have been told to accelerate plans (sorry for the pun) to build the first fully-functioning thorium reactor within ten years, instead of 25 years as originally planned.

"This is definitely a race. China faces fierce competition from overseas and to get there first will not be an easy task", says Professor Li Zhong, a leader of the programme. He said researchers are working under warlike pressure to deliver.

Good for them. They may do the world a big favour. They may even help to close the era of fossil fuel hegemony, and with it close the rentier petro-gas regimes that have such trouble adapting to rational modern behaviour. The West risks being left behind, still relying on the old uranium reactor technology that was originally designed for US submarines in the 1950s.

The excellent South China Morning Post trumpeted the story this morning on the front page of its website.

As readers know, I have long been a fan of thorium (so is my DT economics colleague Szu Chan). It promises to be safer, cleaner, and ultimately cheaper than uranium. It is much harder to use in nuclear weapons, and therefore limits the proliferation risk.

There are ample supplies of the radioactive mineral. It is scattered across Britain. The Americans have buried tonnes of it, a hazardous by-product of rare earth metal mining.

As I reported in January 2013, China's thorium project was launched as a high priority by princeling Jiang Mianheng, son of former leader Jiang Zemin. He estimates that China has enough thorium to power its electricity needs for "20,000 years".

An infographic comparing the two technologies:


Search my site for Thorium to see my views on this technology. It is criminal that we are still sticking with Uranium designs when Thorium offers so much.

How times have changed

From the New York Times comes this obituary for Randolph W. Thrower:

Randolph Thrower, I.R.S. Chief Who Resisted Nixon, Dies at 100
Randolph W. Thrower, a Republican lawyer who headed the Internal Revenue Service under President Richard M. Nixon from 1969 to 1971 before losing his job for resisting White House efforts to punish its enemies through tax audits, died March 8 at his home in Atlanta. He was 100.

Some more:

The end came in January 1971, after Mr. Thrower requested a meeting with the president, hoping to warn him personally about the pressure White House staff members had been placing on the I.R.S. to audit the tax returns of certain individuals. Beginning with antiwar leaders and civil rights figures, the list had grown to include journalists and members of Congress, among them every Democratic senator up for re-election in 1970, Mr. Thrower told investigators years later.

He was certain the president was unaware of this and would agree that "any suggestion of the introduction of political influence into the I.R.S." could damage his presidency, he said.

Mr. Thrower received two responses. The first was a memo from the president's appointments secretary saying a meeting would not be possible; the second was a phone call from John D. Ehrlichman, the president's domestic affairs adviser, telling him he was fired.

He agreed to stay on until a replacement could be found, did not voice his concerns publicly about the administration's growing appetite for prosecuting its putative enemies, and never disputed the White House explanation for his departure - that he had resigned 'for personal reasons.'

In White House tapes and memos released in later years, Nixon described the situation differently. "May I simply reiterate for the record that I wish Randolph Thrower, commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service, removed at the earliest feasible opportunity," he wrote on Jan. 21, 1971, five days before the White House announced that Mr. Thrower was stepping down.

That May, as the administration continued to look for a successor to Mr. Thrower, Nixon made clear what kind of I.R.S. commissioner he wanted. "I want to be sure he is a ruthless son of a bitch," he was recorded as saying, "that he will do what he is told, that every income tax return I want to see I see" and "that he will go after our enemies and not go after our friends."

The Overton Window has slid way to far. Time for a serious reset.

Fluke is a manufacturer of excellent electronic test equipment but they have overstepped the bounds of decency. From the excellent electronics site SparkFun:
Fluke, we love you but you're killing us
Part of SparkFun�s business model is to find really cool items that every hacker and DIY electronics person needs. A digital multimeter is one of those �must-haves.� We started sourcing a really great high-quality $15 multimeter back in 2008. This price-point enables countless beginners to get their feet wet in electronics.

Fast forward six years and many thousands of multimeters sold. On March 7th, we were notified by the Department of Homeland Security/US Customs and Border Protection that our latest shipment of 2,000 multimeters was being inspected.
Turns out that Fluke got a trademark for the following:
digital multimeters and products with multimeter functionality that have a contrasting color combination of a dark-colored body or face and a contrasting yellow border, frame, molding, overlay, holster or perimeter.
From SparkFun:
Yellow is awfully broad: In my mind, multimeters have always been yellow. I�ve never had the opportunity to own a Fluke-branded DMM so I�m not sure where my brain picked up this association. I can respect trademarks and company branding and I respect Fluke�s reputation for high-quality multimeters. If Fluke wants to own a color I would expect the USPTO to require them to assign an exact color just like Tiffany�s did with Tiffany Blue. But allowing a company to trademark �yellow� seems broad.

Wicked burden on small business: Trademark law is heavily skewed towards large business. Small business does not have the resources to stay abreast of all trademarks for all the products they don�t carry. If you�re going to put the onus on the little guy to avoid infringing IP then you shouldn�t need an army of consultants or attorneys to find this information. We will lose $30,000 on this shipment. But the cost of the legal legwork and manpower to make sure we don�t violate a future color seems unreasonable and simply not feasible.

No recourse: Our multimeters are actually kind of orange, not Fluke yellow. The document from the Department of Homeland Security is matter of fact. Where is the opportunity for recourse? What is the appeals process? Because of a $150 per day warehousing fee we are forced to decide quickly with limited legal guidance and mounting penalty costs.

Decide between bad and worse: So we really only have two options, ship them back or have them destroyed. Having them destroyed costs $150 per hour with no indication of how much time it will take to destroy 2,000 units. Returning them has been ruled out by the manufacturer in China because the import taxes in China are so steep (yay free trade) that bringing them back into the country to have them modified would be more expensive than paying for the return shipping and taxes. Between bad and worse, we have to have them destroyed. Sorry Earth.

A message to Fluke: You�re cool! We like Fluke. We didn�t know about your trademark on yellow framed multimeters and we agree to change our colors. Perhaps we can be granted a 60-day license? There�s probably not enough time (the DMMs will be destroyed in a few days) but perhaps there�s a chance. We�d be happy to donate them to the cause of your choice.
Sheesh... It is not like they were trying to pass these off as Fluke-branded multimeters. Fluke needs to step up to the plate on this.
Talk about being an idiot -- from the Huston, TX Chronicle:
Principal who told kids not to speak Spanish will lose job
The Hempstead school board won't renew the contract of a principal who instructed her students not to speak Spanish, in a rapidly-evolving district where more than half of the students, like many Texas schools, are now Hispanic.

Hempstead Middle School Principal Amy Lacey was placed on paid administrative leave in December after reportedly announcing, via intercom, that students were not to speak Spanish on the school's campus. The Hispanic population of the rural area, roughly 50 miles northwest of Houston, is growing quickly, and Latino advocates say that it's important to allow Spanish in public schools.

"When you start banning aspects of ethnicity or cultural identity," says Augustin Pinedo, director of the League of United Latin American Citizens Region 18, "it sends the message that the child is not wanted: 'We don't want your color. We don't want your kind.' They then tend to drop out early."

Such fast growth is pervasive in Texas, says Steve Murdock, a professor at Rice University and director of the Hobby Center for the Study of Texas. Half of all Texas public-school students are now Hispanic, he notes. "When you look at issues related to education in Texas, to a great extent, you're looking at the education of Hispanic children."
The Hempstead school board is populated with congenital idiots. The kids are in school to learn and learning is not about reinforcing a culture, learning is about developing the tools to succeed for the rest of your life. Reading, writing and speaking fluent English is crucial to success in life. This may suck but it is the truth and the longer you delay it, the worse the fluency will be -- kids learn languages a lot faster than most adults. Hempstead Middle School Principal Amy Lacey should have been given a nice raise and promotion instead of being canned and these latino 'advocates' are useful idiots in the pure Leninist meaning -- they are hurting the very people they are trying to represent. They may complain that The Man is keeping them down but they ARE The Man. Idiots...

Words to hold in our hearts

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For so many different reasons...
Big tip of the Stetson to Gerard

Fun at work - Western Union

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The new business I am starting is a copy/ship store. A unit in my building became vacant so I decided to launch. Had a similar business in Seattle 20 years ago. There are no other such facilities within a 25 mile radius and there are about 4,000 people living in a 10 mile radius. Currently set up with UPS and USPS with FedEx coming soon. Just got approved by Western Union yesterday so spent today going through all the requisite training. About four hours of watching the screen and clicking on the correct answers. It is comprehensive but not rocket science. Fun stuff -- the local reception has been incredible.
I wish Ambassador Bolton would run for President. He would have everything fixed in the first month. Here he is talking about Secretary of State John Kerry 'negotiating' with the Russians:
More at CNS News.

Curious - convicted spy working for IRS

From Patrick Poole writing at PJ Media:

(EXCLUSIVE) IRS Currently Employing Convicted Terrorist Associate
While IRS officials were targeting Tea Party groups for special scrutiny of their 501(c)3 tax exempt applications, the IRS also hired a policeman who had been prosecuted by the Justice Department - and convicted in federal court - of using his access to the FBI's NCIC system to tip off a terror suspect about the bureau's surveillance. The leak wrecked a major terror investigation.

He is still at the IRS.

Weiss Russell (he has changed his name from Weiss Rasool, the name under which he was convicted), is currently employed as a financial management analyst in the IRS Deputy Chief Financial Officer's Office.

In 2008, Russell/Rasool was prosecuted for his role in tipping off Abdullah Alnoshan, a close associate of al-Qaeda cleric Anwar al-Awlaki and a friend of Russell's from their mosque. According to the Justice Department's Statement of Facts filed at the time of Russell's indictment, Alnoshan provided license plate numbers to Russell for cars he believed were conducting surveillance on him. Russell then checked those plate numbers in the FBI's NCIC database, which came back to a leasing company which federal prosecutors claimed would have tipped off Russell to the bureau's surveillance.

He left a phone message for Alnoshan that the FBI intercepted.

Prosecutors also claimed that on more than a dozen instances, Russell checked his name, the names of relatives, and other friends to see if they were listed on the Violent Crime and Terrorist Offender File on NCIC without an authorized reason for doing so.


An IRS official speaking anonymously to PJ Media said that Russell's financial management analyst position would have required him to fill out the Standard Form 86 questionnaire for national security positions and to be subjected to a background check.
There's no way anyone with his conviction for abusing access to a government database and damaging a terror investigation could have been vetted and approved without outside intervention. Changing his name shouldn't have mattered.

I've never even heard of a case like this.

Patrick closes with this:

Phone messages left yesterday and today with the IRS Media Relations Office have not yet been returned. This story will be updated if they do provide comment.

Of course, Mr. Rasool will be ushered out of his current post but he will remain employed, just in a different position. I am cynical enough to think that he will get a raise for his troubles. This is downright unreal and it is going on under our noses -- our tax dollars at work. If we had a flat tax of 10%, we could be done with this agency and our revenues would skyrocket...

About yesterday's major science announcement

From Cornell University's Liam McAllister writing at The Reference Frame:

BICEP2: Primordial Gravitational Waves!
The BICEP2 team has just announced a remarkable discovery (FAQ): they argue that they have detected, at very high significance, the imprint of primordial gravitational waves on the polarization of the cosmic microwave background. Moreover, the signal they see is very strong. If they are right, this is The Big One.

How should we interpret this result, and what are its implications?
If the BICEP measurement really is a detection of primordial gravitational waves, and if we interpret this finding in the context of the overwhelmingly favored theory for producing primordial gravitational waves - namely, inflation - then the implications of this finding are staggering. I find it hard to imagine a more powerful, more transformative experimental result anywhere in fundamental physics, short of a discovery of extra dimensions or of a violation of quantum mechanics.

Liam closes with this:

The BICEP result, if correct, is a spectacular and historic discovery. In terms of impact on fundamental physics, particularly as a tool for testing ideas about quantum gravity, the detection of primordial gravitational waves is completely unprecedented. Inflation evidently occurred just two orders of magnitude below the Planck scale, and we have now seen the quantum fluctuations of the graviton. For those who want to understand how the universe began, and also for those who want to understand quantum gravity, it just doesn't get any better than this.

Stanford University Physics Professor Andrei Linde had postulated this. In the following video, Stanford Assistant Physics Professor and BICEP2 researcher Chao-Lin Kuo visits Dr. Linde's home with the good news:

Physics professor Andrei Linde who theorized the concept of "cosmic inflation"
is told that his theory has been proven, after 30 years!

Very cool!

Crap - helicopter crash in Seattle

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From Seattle station KOMO:
2 killed as KOMO News helicopter crashes beside Space Needle
Two people were killed and one was critically injured when the KOMO News helicopter crashed and burst into flames Tuesday morning on Broad Street only yards away from the Space Needle.

Emergency personnel immediately rushed to the scene as thick smoke poured over the city at the height of the morning commute.

Two cars and a pickup truck on Broad Street were struck in the crash. Occupants of two vehicles were able to escape without injury, but the driver of a third vehicle was badly burned.

Witnesses said the 38-year-old man could be seen running from from his car with his clothing on fire, and he was extinguished by officers at the scene. He was then rushed to Harborview Medical Center in critical condition with burns over more than 50 percent of his body.

The helicopter exploded into a fireball on impact. Huge flames and thick plumes of black smoke poured from the blazing wreckage, about 50 yards from the base of the Space Needle.
Keeping those people in our prayers.

Heads up for Windows XP users

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You have 20 days to download the service packs. XP is used for a lot of earlier applications including several I use. There are no options for updating these applications and they all run stand-alone with no internet connection required so there is no concern with system security. Windows XP (and Office 2003) was a real sweet-spot for Microsoft and still has use today.
From Mother Jones magazine of all places:
24 Mind-Blowing Facts About Marijuana Production in America
You thought your pot came from environmentally conscious hippies? Think again. The way marijuana is grown in America, it turns out, is anything but sustainable and organic. Check out these mind-blowing stats, and while you're at it, read Josh Harkinson's feature story, "The Landscape-Scarring, Energy-Sucking, Wildlife-Killing Reality of Pot Farming."
And we are all about the numbers:
  • During California�s growing season, outdoor grows consumed roughly 60 million gallons of water a day � 50% more than is used by all residents of San Francisco.
  • In California, indoor pot growing accounts for about 9% of household electricity use.
  • For every pound of pot grown indoors, 4600lbs of carbon dioxide goes into the atmosphere. California�s production equates to emissions of 3 million cars.
  • The energy needed to produce a single joint is enough to produce 18 pints of beer, and creates emissions comparable to burning a 100 watt light bulb for 25 hours.
20 more at the links. I have zero problem with it and welcome a rationally run legalization and licensing process but its growth and consumption has its effects.
Lulu's stitches came out with zero problem. She has been feeling a little bit dizzy and we were worried about that but it turns out that this is an occasional side-effect of the antibiotic (Cephalexin). Came home, made some bruschetta and watched a bit of TV -- we both love the cooking shows. Now to surf for a bit...
Heading into town to do the store buying run today. Lulu is riding shotgun as she has an appointment to get her stitches removed. She finally gets to see what I do on these runs -- I enjoy them.
This is disgusting and the mainstream media is doing nothing to correct this. From John Hinderaker at PowerLine:
The Democrats Continue Their Smear of Paul Ryan
I wrote here about the Democratic Party�s disgraceful attempt to smear Paul Ryan and Bill Bennett as part of their ongoing fundraising effort. Last week, Ryan appeared on Bennett�s Morning In America radio show and, among other topics, he and Bennett discussed urban poverty. This is what Ryan said, as transcribed by me:
Bennett � Fatherless problem is a big one.
Ryan � Absolutely � that�s the tailspin or spiral that we�re looking at in our communities � your buddy Charles Murray or Bob Putnam over at Harvard, those guys have written books on this, which is, we have got this tailspin of culture in our inner cities in particular of men not working and just generations of men not even thinking about working or learning the value and the culture of work � so there is a real culture problem here that has to be dealt with. Everybody�s got to get involved. So this is what we talk about when we talk about civil society. If you�re driving from the suburb to the sports arena downtown by these blighted neighborhoods, you can�t just say �I�m paying my taxes, government�s going to fix that.� You need to get involved. You need to get involved yourself, whether through a good mentor program or some religious charity, whatever it is to make a difference, and that�s how we help resuscitate our culture.
The party of slavery and Jim Crow responded by sending out an email calling Ryan�s words a �thinly veiled racial attack� and a �dog-whistle to ugly racial politics.� The Democrats claimed�without actually quoting Ryan, of course�that he �told ultra-conservative radio host Bill Bennett that poverty in America is caused by a �culture problem� of �inner city� men too lazy to work.� The Democrats� goal, as always, was to stir up and mislead their party�s faithful so as to raise money. They also called on their followers to sign an online petition denouncing Paul Ryan.
More at the site -- shame on the progressives. What Ryan said was true -- we cannot depend on Government to efficiently lift these people out of poverty. It is our responsibility to help them and to train them. The Democrats do not want to get their actual hands dirty, they just want to keep spending other people's money and concentrating their power. I have said this before but the liberals are operating on Karl Marx's failed theory. Marx was a trust-fund baby and never held a position of financial responsibility in his life. His failed theory was that there is a fixed pool of capital and the inequities of the world stem from an uneven distribution of said capital. Bullcrap -- capital is fungible. It can be created and it can be destroyed. When the banks failed in 2008, where were the trucks carrying away the lost money? A single mom created a multi-billion dollar business in ten years*. Where were the trucks? *Click the link below for the single mom's identity and her business.
There is supposed to be a major announcement scheduled for tomorrow. Rumors are that Gravity Waves have finally been detected. From Sean Carroll:
Gravitational Waves in the Cosmic Microwave Background
Major announcement coming! That much is clear, from this press release: on Monday at noon Eastern time, astronomers will �announce a major discovery.� No evidence from that page what the discovery actually is. But if you�re friends with a lot of cosmologists on Facebook/Twitter (or if you just read the Guardian), you�ve heard the rumor: the BICEP2 experiment has purportedly detected signs of gravitational waves in the polarization of the cosmic microwave background radiation. If it�s true (and the result holds up), it will be an enormously important clue about what happened at the very earliest moments of the Big Bang. Normally I wouldn�t be spreading rumors, but once it�s in the newspapers, I figure why not? And in the meantime we can think about what such a discovery would mean, regardless of what the announcement actually turns out to be (and whether the result holds up). See also Richard Easther, R�sonaances, Sesh Nadathur, Philip Gibbs, Shaun Hotchkiss, and Peter Coles. At a slightly more technical level, Daniel Baumann has a slide-show review.

Punchline: other than finding life on other planets or directly detecting dark matter, I can�t think of any other plausible near-term astrophysical discovery more important than this one for improving our understanding of the universe. It would be the biggest thing since dark energy. (And I might owe Max Tegmark $100 � at least, if Planck confirms the result. I will joyfully pay up.) Note that the big news here isn�t that gravitational waves exist � of course they do. The big news is that we have experimental evidence of something that was happening right when our universe was being born.
This is major -- we have been able to detect the background radiation from the Big Bang as a form of microwave 'hum' since the early 1960's (here and here) but to get tangible evidence from that time period... This is really a fun time to be alive!

Nothing much today - maybe later

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Spending a quiet morning working on some stuff around the house. I'll post a bit later this evening.

Over the transom - a fun observation

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People are starting to talk about the 2016 election cycle and wondering what will happen. Just got this in an email:
If Obama does half as much damage to his party as he has to America, a few years from now Democrats will be harder to find than Malaysian air liners.
From the Bellingham Herald:
Well-known chef enjoying lower profile at Maple Falls eatery
Sam Hassan has wanted a restaurant in a community lacking in pretenses, and he's found it in Maple Falls.

Hassan operates the Maple Falls Caf�, which he took over last spring at 7471 Mount Baker Highway. Hassan's experience in owning and operating a restaurant is extensive, including several Seattle eateries that received quite a bit of media attention, such as the Rio Brazilian Grill, the Samba Brazilian Restaurant and most recently the Paratii Craft Bar in Ballard that he sold in February 2013. He's also had restaurants in Rio de Janeiro and London.

He ended up in Maple Falls after paying a visit to the area. He became interested in opening a distillery and saw an ad for the Maple Falls building. He had never been to the Mount Baker area and fell in love with Maple Falls, particularly the wooded setting. Teaming up with business partner Louise "Lou" Stromberg, the restaurant had a quiet, low-profile opening. He still has plans for a distillery.
And it's not just food and booze -- a bit more:
The restaurant was involved in organizing the inaugural Maple Falls World Music Festival last spring, bringing in musicians from various countries, including France, Brazil and Ireland. Hassan said they plan on doing it again this year.
Sam brought some incredible musicians to our town. World class stuff...
From Ilya Somin writing at The Volokh Conspiracy:
Why the federal government wastes large amounts of property it often doesn�t even know it owns
NPR has an interesting story on how the federal government owns large amounts of unused property. Often, government agencies don�t even realize they own the land in question:
Government estimates suggest there may be 77,000 empty or underutilized buildings across the country. Taxpayers own them, and even vacant, they�re expensive. The Office of Management and Budget says these buildings could be costing taxpayers $1.7 billion a year.

That�s because someone has to mow the lawns, keep the pipes from freezing, maintain security fences, pay for some basic power � even when the buildings are just sitting empty�.

[T]he only known centralized database that the government has�[is] not reliable�

Sen. Tom Carper, a Democrat from Delaware, is one of the lawmakers pushing to get a clearer picture.

�We don�t know how many properties we have, we don�t know which ones we own, which ones are leased,� he says. �We don�t know whether we ought to be building or buying instead of leasing.�

But Carper says that even when an agency knows it has a building it would like to sell, bureaucratic hurdles limit what it can do. No federal agency can sell anything unless it�s uncontaminated, asbestos-free and environmentally safe. Those are expensive fixes.

Then the agency has to make sure another one doesn�t want it. Then state and local governments get a crack at it, then nonprofits � and finally, a 25-year-old law requires the government to see whether it could be used as a homeless shelter.

Many agencies just lock the doors and say forget it.
Ilya offers this thought:
The whole situation is an unintended lesson in the advantages of private property rights. If a private owner has a piece of unused property, he or she has strong incentives to find some valuable use for it. If he can�t, he has a strong incentive to sell it to someone else who can do better. In both cases, he gets to keep the profit. For that reason, he also has incentives to keep track of the property he owns, and avoid imposing burdensome bureaucratic procedures that make it difficult to sell unused land.

By contrast, government officials get little or no reward for finding better uses for underutilized government land. Indeed, a conscientious bureaucrat who tries to do so may just end up annoying his colleagues and superiors, for whom it means extra hassle with little chance of any gain. For similar reasons, government agencies sometimes have little incentive to even keep track of the land they own, or to make it easy to sell unneeded property.
Instead of requiring that the buildings be brought up to date and the asbestos be remediated, offer them for sale for dirt cheap to someone who will do the work and turn them into something useful. That way, they are no longer on the books for FedGov and we the people are no longer paying for their upkeep. Large government is never efficient, small business always is.

Workplace accident

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From the Associated Press:
Somali Suicide bomber kills self
A Somali police officer says a suicide car bomber accidentally detonated his explosives near a popular hotel in the Somali capital.

Capt. Mohamed Hussein said the bomber appeared to have prematurely detonated his explosives-laden car Saturday as he tried to park near a hotel. No others were hurt or killed in the blast.
Good riddance to 9th century scum. Yes, Christianity has quite the checkered past but we also had a reformation in the 16th century and put the cruelty behind us.

Life in a small town

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Our little (about 200 souls) hamlet stays nicely out of the news. Unlike the little (less than 500) town of Hampton, Florida. From the New York Times:
A Dot on the Map, After Scandal, Could Be Wiped Off
It�s easy for motorists driving down busy Route 301 to miss this speck of a city in rural north-central Florida: Fiddle with the car radio, unwrap a pack of gum, gaze out the window at the sunset and, whoosh, it�s gone.

And so it fell to the police to force hurried travelers to stop and savor the 1,260-foot ribbon of roadway belonging to this city. Hidden by trash bins or concealed in a stretch of woods, the officers � a word loosely applied here � pointed their radar devices. Between 2011 and 2012, Hampton�s officers issued 12,698 speeding tickets to motorists, many most likely caught outside Hampton�s strip of county road.

But, as it turns out, surprised motorists are not the only ones getting burned. So many speeding tickets were churned out for so many years and with such brazenness that this city of 477 residents came under scrutiny � and not just for revenue raising with a radar gun. Now, Hampton, an 89-year-old city, is fighting legislative momentum to wipe it off the map, after a state audit last month uncovered reams of financial irregularities, shoddy record-keeping and missing funds.
Some more:
In the audit, the city sometimes offered an explanation for its slipshod documentation. The reason, for example, that no water meter logbooks before April 2012 could be found was that they were �lost in a swamp,� the result of a car accident involving the water utility operator. (There was no accident report filed.) Those logbooks might have clarified why the city�s elder-care center did not receive a water bill for seven years and why three city commissioners went unbilled for 17 months. As for the city�s pre-1999 records, Florida floods were blamed for obliterating them.
Even picking a mayor among the five Council members proved an ordeal. The post was finally filled last September, but two months into the job, the new mayor, Barry Moore, was charged with possession of Oxycodone with intent to sell. He now sits in jail awaiting trial.
There was chatter about nepotism at City Hall. Jane Hall, the former city clerk, is the mother of the former maintenance operator, Adam Hall, who also ran the water system, and the wife of Charles Hall, a longtime city councilman. Her daughter also worked there for a short time.
There were mutterings about vanishing city funds; personal use of city credit cards, trucks and gas; and trips to Ms. Hall�s clutter-filled house to hand over cash payments for water bills for which she offered no receipts. Some residents were threatened with the loss of water � the one utility controlled by the city � if they made trouble, Mr. Smith said. Auditors found that 46 percent of the city�s water went unaccounted for, much of it leaking through decrepit lines.
Holy crap -- the place deserves to be nuked from orbit. They are running a 46% water loss? I am president of our water board and anything more than 5% to 7% has our engineer scrambling to find and fix the leak. Glad to be living here and not there...

That's it for the night

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Got a memorial service to attend tomorrow as well as a very large 'honey-do' list. Lulu is healing up fine -- she is grumpy, her wound itches like hell and now that the shock has subsided, she is finding more and more bruising on her arm, leg and neck. Healing from a trauma that major is never easy but it is good that she is complaining about all the right things. She will be riding shotgun with me on my Monday buying run and will see the Physician to get her stitches removed.

Pi - the re-match

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Special? Not according to Mathematician Vi Hart. From the wonderful Miss Cellania writing at Neatorama:

Clueless in California

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From the San Francisco Chronicle:
Appeals court reinstates plan to protect delta smelt
A federal appeals court on Thursday reinstated the government's plan to limit water supplies from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta to Central and Southern California in order to protect the delta smelt, an endangered 3-inch fish that is considered an indicator of the health of the surrounding environment.

In a 2-1 decision written by one of its more conservative judges, the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a federal judge's ruling that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service had relied on faulty science in a report that led to restrictions on shipments by California's two major water suppliers, the Central Valley Project and the State Water Project.

Delta water supplies most of the state's farmers and more than 20 million consumers.
This is downright ridiculous. The Delta Smelt was touted as being endangered and endemic to that one location but neither are correct. Arizona and Texas are suffering the same drought conditions but they have better water storage and management so the farmers are not having any significant trouble. Say hello to higher food prices this summer...

Climate change - a Gallup Poll

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From Gallup:
Climate Change Not a Top Worry in U.S.
Twenty-eight U.S. senators held an all-night "talkathon" Monday to call attention to climate change, an issue that only 24% of Americans say they worry about a great deal. This puts climate change, along with the quality of the environment, near the bottom of a list of 15 issues Americans rated in Gallup's March 6-9 survey. The economy, federal spending, and healthcare dominate Americans' worries.
And the numbers:
Climate change? Next to the bottom...

Global Warming - where is it?

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An excellent five minute rant on the people behind Global Warming from Brian Lilley at the Canadian Sun News Network:

Happy Pi Day

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Today is 3.14 - the first three digits of the mathematical constant known as Pi.
Neatorama has more: T-Shirts and Celebrate Pi Day!

You and whose army?

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From the Associated Press:
Kerry: US, EU will react if Crimea annexed
Secretary of State John Kerry is warning Russia that it will face an immediate, "very serious series" of steps from the United States and Europe if it annexes Ukraine's strategic Crimea region.

Speaking Thursday after German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Russia risks "massive" political and economic consequences if it refuses to soften its position, Kerry told a Senate committee that Moscow should expect the U.S. and European Union to take measures against it on Monday should it accept and act on the expected results of this weekend's referendum in Crimea.
What is he going to do -- draft a strongly worded memo? Kerry is walking around with a big 'Kick Me' sign on his back. Utterly clueless...
A telling set of photographs -- from TOTUS:
TOTUS writes:
Three of today's foremost world leaders are Benjamin Netanyahu, Vladimir Putin and Barack (Barry) Obama. Looking back at what these 3 men were doing at the age of 23 gives us a clear understanding of the three men today. Both Netanyahu and Putin were serving their countries, whereas Barack Obama was serving himself----hell, he's is still doing that, and just as when he was 23, at the taxpayers expense. Little wonder that he continues to support those on the government dole. I really believe, that when the complete records of his days at Occidental College in California are released we will find out he obtained financial aid under fraudulent means by claiming to be a foreign student. But that is another story -- what's important is that up to the time of his election to the Illinois state senate he never held a real job. And even there he managed to avoid taking any substantial position on important issues by simply voting present. Both Putin and Netanyahu are leaders, like them or not. but Barack Hussein Obama, well he is just a Barack Hussein Obama who cares only about his interest with everything else a distant second.
Nails it...
Excellent 36 minute documentary on the origins of the anthropogenic global warming scare.
Dr. Coleman goes back to the original Revelle/Seuss paper, to Revelle's teaching a class at Harvard University where a young Al Gore was a student and it snowballed from there as various people and groups started using Global Warming as a lever to move their own agendas. All of the data he cites can be found at his website: Coleman's Corner Well worth watching...
A curious story -- from the New York Daily News:
Mummified Michigan woman seemingly voted in the afterlife, records show
The mummified remains of a Michigan woman whose death went unnoticed for six years appear to have turned up last week � along with a vote she supposedly cast from beyond the grave.

A contractor found the body in question in a garage last Wednesday after the $54,000 in Pia Farrenkopf's bank account dried up and her house in Pontiac, outside Detroit, went into foreclosure, according to local media.

Authorities say they think the remains belong to Farrenkopf, whom they believe died in 2008. But the mystery turned even murkier Monday.

Voting records show that Farrenkopf voted in Michigan's November 2010 gubernatorial election, the Detroit Free Press reported.
A bit more:
Farrenkopf, who would be 49, registered to vote in 2006 but did not vote until 2010, and that the vote may have been an administrative error, they revealed. Otherwise, the ghastly discovery may have uncovered something politically nefarious.
Politically nefarious? Tip of the iceberg. The 2012 election was rife with examples of voter fraud.

If grocery stores were like cable companies

Great video -- Foxtel is an Australian Cable TV company:

About that economic recovery

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We are supposed to me in the middle of an economic recovery. That's what Obama is telling us anyway. What about stories like this one -- from AutoBlog:
Americans taking public transit at highest rate in 57 years
I don't like public transportation. It's a completely irrational dislike, I'll admit, and is largely due to the fact that I'm a control freak. It's the reason I like living in Detroit, rather than New York, Chicago, London, Paris or any other city with a sprawling transit system - I have to drive everywhere. Senior Editor Steven Ewing, though, loves public transportation. During the Chicago Auto Show, he was genuinely disappointed that we could walk or be shuttled everywhere, rather than take his beloved "L" Train or shove our way onto a CTA bus, like in years past. Based on a new study, though, it seems like more and more people are siding with Mr. Ewing when it comes to buses, trains and subways.

According to a study released by the American Public Transportation Association, in 2013 Americans took a record 10.7 billion trips on public transit, a 57-year high. This isn't a new phenomenon either, as the US has cracked the 10-billion-trip mark for the eighth year in a row. There was a 2.8-percent jump in the number of people riding subways and elevated trains with over half of the systems studied recording an increase. Light rail, meanwhile, saw a 1.6-percent jump nationwide, with 17 of the 27 systems in the US seeing upticks.

More surprising is that the number of transport networks aren't limited to big cities like Los Angeles, New York or Chicago. Smaller metropolises are seeing increases in the use of public transport, with places like Austin, TX, Minneapolis, MN and Portland, OR seeing double-digit jumps in subway and other heavy rail. Salt Lake City, UT, meanwhile, recorded a massive 103.3-percent increase in its heavy rail. It's a similar story in smaller cities that use light rail, like trolleys and streetcars.
We are seeing this in our little corner of the world. Our bus ridership is up a couple percent from last year even though the transit time is a lot longer than when driving a car.

Psychotropics in the Bible

Some interesting botany in the Bible -- from NeuroBrainstorm:

Psychoactive Plants in the Bible
Christianity is based on accounts of Jesus and God in the Bible. The Bible includes various plants that are used often and deemed holy. Some of these plants are psychedelic while others have medical qualities. Both the new and old testament mention the use of these plants in religious purpose. Jesus used shamanic techniques to help establish a stable religion in the name of God.

Holy Anointing Oil
Leviticus 10:6 And Moses said to Aaron, and to Eleazar and Ithamar, his sons, "Do not uncover your heads nor tear your clothes, lest you die, and wrath come upon all the people. But let your brethren, the whole house of Israel, bewail the burning which the Lord has kindled. You shall not go out from the door of the tabernacle of meeting, lest you die, for the anointing oil of the Lord is upon you." And they did according to the word of Moses.
John 12:3 Then took Mary a pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair: and the house was filled with the odour of the ointment.
Exodus 29:7 Then shalt thou take the anointing oil, and pour it upon his head and anoint him.

Holy Anointing oil according to the bible
Pure myrrh, 500 shekels (about 6 kg)
Sweet cinnamon, 250 shekels (about 3 kg)
Calamus, 250 shekels (about 3 kg)
Cassia, 500 shekels (about 6 kg)
Olive oil, one hin (3.7 Liters)

The holy anointing oil is a potent psychedelic extract. The 18 kg of plant material that is extracted into 3.7 liters of olive oil yields a potent essential oil. The holy anointing oil is essentially an anxiolytic-hallucinogen.

The author -- Kevin Loftis -- proceeds to list the properties of each component. The oil will have sedative and hallucinogenic effects on the anointee. Kevin continues with Holy Perfume (Exodus 30:34), God in the Burning Bush (Exodus 3:2), the Song of Songs 4:13-15, Manna (Exodus 16 14,31), as well as the healings of Jesus (epilepsy, spirit possession, blindness). Going to have to add a few plants to my garden this year...

Black MIDI

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Learned something new today and am fascinated by it. From Chill:

What is Black MIDI?
Black MIDI is a micro genre in music. It's created using Musical Instrument Digital Interface and it's main feature is a giant note density (sometimes this term is applied only to MIDI tracks with 1M+ note count). It is totally impossible to read it in modern musical notation form, because music sheets look almost black. Just imagine that the longest notes are 32d; some songs contain millions of abnormally short notes: sure, this music cannot be perceived normally. Usually black MIDI tracks are blackened MIDI remixes but also there are original black MIDI songs. Authors of remixes are called "blackers", usually MIDI tracks are created by "MIDI crews" - groups of blackers.

Here is an example -- 4.6 million discrete notes in 3:44:

Quote of the day - our Constitution

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From The Washington Free Beacon:
Maybe I should offer a good thanks to the distinguished members of the majority, the Republicans, my chairman and others, for giving us an opportunity to have a deliberative constitutional discussion that reinforces the sanctity of this nation and how well it is that we have lasted some 400 years, operating under a constitution that clearly defines what is constitutional and what is not.
--Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D., Texas
The Constitution was adopted on Sep. 17, 1787, Ms. Lee was 173 years off.
And you have to love the subtle 'oh shit' look the guy to her left gave when she launched that howler.

You say it's your birthday

A big happy 25th to the World Wide Web

I was sitting in the Allegro Coffeehouse in Seattle when a Physicist buddy of mine came in with a printout. He handed it to me and said that I might find it interesting.

It was a copy of Tim Berners-Lee's original proposal for Information Management at the lab where he worked. From this modest beginning, the entire World Wide Web took flight. Sir Tim wrote the following post at Google:

On the 25th anniversary of the web, let's keep it free and open
Today is the web's 25th birthday. On March 12, 1989, I distributed a proposal to improve information flows: "a 'web' of notes with links between them."

Though CERN, as a physics lab, couldn't justify such a general software project, my boss Mike Sendall allowed me to work on it on the side. In 1990, I wrote the first browser and editor. In 1993, after much urging, CERN declared that WWW technology would be available to all, without paying royalties, forever.

This decision enabled tens of thousands to start working together to build the web. Now, about 40 percent of us are connected and creating online. The web has generated trillions of dollars of economic value, transformed education and healthcare and activated many new movements for democracy around the world. And we're just getting started.

How has this happened? By design, the underlying Internet and the WWW are non-hierarchical, decentralized and radically open. The web can be made to work with any type of information, on any device, with any software, in any language. You can link to any piece of information. You don't need to ask for permission. What you create is limited only by your imagination.

So today is a day to celebrate. But it's also an occasion to think, discuss -- and do. Key decisions on the governance and future of the Internet are looming, and it's vital for all of us to speak up for the web's future. How can we ensure that the other 60 percent around the world who are not connected get online fast? How can we make sure that the web supports all languages and cultures, not just the dominant ones? How do we build consensus around open standards to link the coming Internet of Things? Will we allow others to package and restrict our online experience, or will we protect the magic of the open web and the power it gives us to say, discover, and create anything? How can we build systems of checks and balances to hold the groups that can spy on the net accountable to the public?

These are some of my questions -- what are yours?

On the 25th birthday of the web, I ask you to join in -- to help us imagine and build the future standards for the web, and to press for every country to develop a digital bill of rights to advance a free and open web for everyone. Learn more and speak up for the sort of web we really want with #web25.

Posted by Sir Tim Berners-Lee, Inventor of the World Wide Web

A fun time to be alive!

Lubos Motl is a Physicist from the Czech Republic and had these words to say about our Secretary of State:

John Kerry, climate, and constants of human behavior
Back in 2004, I probably didn't know most of the things about John Kerry and his way of thinking that I know today. Today, it looks utterly insane to me that so many people in the U.S. - and perhaps 95% of Harvard faculty - would vote for this guy who is completely detached from reality.

Today, Kerry declined a meeting with Putin. It's probably not an important enough work for the U.S. Secretary of State these days. Or perhaps, Kerry believes that Putin will be so sad that he isn't allowed to meet Kerry that he will order all the Russian and Crimean troops and self-defense units to commit seppuku. After Putin suggested a meeting with Kerry, Kerry rejected it and his spokesgirl explained the step by saying that Kerry first wants to see evidence that Russia wants to be engaged in diplomacy. Huh!? ;-)

The events around Ukraine are not sufficiently interesting for Kerry so he just revealed his #1 priority: over the weekend, all U.S. diplomats were ordered to press case for "climate action". It's apparently not enough that no one else than the U.S. Secretary of State seriously believes the decadent postmodern religion about the need to "fight climate change". All U.S. diplomats will probably be required to unanimously parrot this complete pseudoscientific idiocy, too.

A bit more:

Is it OK for the U.S. Secretary of State to be incompetent in all this "art of geopolitics" because we already live in a new world where none of these things is needed anymore? Have all these things become history? They haven't. Conflicts keep on emerging, wars keep on being fought, and so on. The idea that the people's and nations' sentiments, desires, and decisions to transform desires to reality has fundamentally disappeared sometime in the 21st century or earlier is a postmodern kitsch. For a politician, this postmodern kitsch is nothing else than a lazy schoolkid's excuse that "his dog ate his homework" from geopolitics.

There is a lot more at the site -- Lubos recounts a lot of the recent (200+ years) history of where he lives as well as going back to the original Pax Romana. Putin is laughing at Obama and Kerry and Clinton and, by these proxies, us -- We The People. Time to get him to stuff that smile where the sun doesn't shine. It is curious to note that the only way that Russia can function as a world power is if the price of oil stays above $80/barrel. The sale of energy to Europe is their primary source of revenue (Russia sources 34% of Europe's energy needs with Norway sourcing 35%). If we tapped our resources, added 0.033% more to our existing network of pipelines (Keystone XL) and started exporting, we would lower the cost of oil to well below that number and quickly bring Mother Russia to heel. Instead, we actually give credence to our half-wit cultural Marxists and keep voting them into office. Hillary wanted a reset with Russia. That reset is going to hit here at home. Hard and with no lube.

From an email

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This came in from an email:
Job Interview:

Human Resources Manager: "What is your greatest weakness?"
Older Man : "My honesty."

Human Resources Manager: "I don't think honesty is necessarily a weakness."
Older Man : "I don't really give a shit what you think."
Do not believe it. Ever... From Rod Adams writing at Atomic Insights:
Smoking gun � Antinuclear talking points coined by coal interests
Some of the earliest documented instances of opposition to the development of commercial nuclear power in the United States originated from designated representatives of the coal industry. They were the first people to mount sustained opposition to the use of taxpayer money to support the development of nuclear power stations.

They testified against the implied subsidy associated with nuclear fuel leasing and complained about the value credited to commercial plant operators for the plutonium produced during operation, even though that material was locked up inside used fuel rods. They were the first people to label the Price-Anderson nuclear liability limitations as a subsidy.

The coal industry, frequently referred to as �King Coal� in the era up to the end of World War II, had legitimate commercial reasons for striving to convince the Government to stop pushing atomic power into the electricity market. The industry had experienced a 30% slide in sales by weight during the fifteen year period between the end of the war and 1960. It nearly completely lost both the home heating market and the railroad locomotive market to diesel fuel and natural gas. The utility power market was the coal industry�s only real growth area.
Much much more at the site (it is a long and well written article) with photos of newspaper clippings and lots of links to sources. King Coal was running scared and their political campaign against Nuclear Power was co-opted by the environmental movement. Of course, Greenpeace would never admit that they share a common ideology with the Coal industry. They would be apoplectic. That would be pure Schadenfreude

Being held hostage by Google

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I recently started a new business. I went online with Google to have my business location indicated on the Google Map. They needed to validate me so they mailed a postcard with a PIN to my physical address. Later that day, I checked and saw that my new businesses was correctly identified on the map. Sweet success!!! So far, so good. Then, my business disappeared from Google Map. I have since received three telephone calls from someone at Google trying to sell me a higher placement in Google searches. I tell them that my business is community oriented and that I do not need to give them money to have my placement "optimized" and I ask what happened to my business icon on the Google map. Each of the three times, we got immediatly disconnected. I would hate to think that Google is violating it's own manifesto: Don't be evil Two thoughts... #1) - Google is holding my business hostage -- what they promise to be a free service doesn't happen unless I give them money for the enhanced service and #2) - My business is registered with the Federal Do Not Call list. Google placed a sales solicitation call in direct violation of the Federal Telecommunications Statutes. If that is not a minor definition of evil, I do not know what is. Shame on you Google!

The missing Air Malaysia Boeing 777

I have held off on posting because there is way to much speculation swirling around. Graybeard at The Silicon Graybeard has a good summary -- he works with airplane avionics:

MH370 - This One is Puzzling
Puzzling, upsetting, bizarre, and other terms. Of course, MH370 is the missing Air Malaysia Boeing 777.

Donald Sensing at Sense of Events raises an idea that is undoubtedly going around, that the flight was hijacked and landed somewhere "out of the way".

I am reminded of a novel I read a few months ago by either Tom Clancy or Frederick Forsyth, can't recall which. It opened with the hijacking and disappearance of an airliner in Africa, run by a large charter company. The craft was repainted and reconfigured to pass for a scheduled-airline plane with the goal of using it as a kamikaze weapon against an American target. Of course the good guys won, but it makes me think: what could account for the instantaneous disappearance of a Boeing 777 that leaves no trace at all?

The Gormogons refute this idea and most others in their piece:

Ghettoputer, the Czar assumes, is blaming alien capture. Mandarin, for his part, is checking to see if he made something dimensional happen and the plane is now happily flying over prehistoric Long Island.

Believe it or not, those two explanations do a better job at lining up with the evidence [than do] pilot error, plane crash, or terrorism.

Since I work in avionics, I thought I might be able to fill in some gaps in your knowledge about the sophistication of these aircraft, but I sure can't provide a definitive answer of what happened. I'm just as blown away as anyone. Much has been made of the aircraft disappearing off radar. When you see an Air Traffic radar display in a movie or somewhere, you see numbers next to the radar returns. These are sent by a box called a transponder on the aircraft. By sensing the amplitude of a pair of pulses sent by the radar, it decides whether it's in the main search beam of the radar or an antenna sidelobe. If it's in the main beam, the transponder replies. Using a data transmission mode, (slow and primitive compared to your phone's data transmission) the aircraft replies with an identification number. When they talk about being off the radar, they probably mean that the transponder is not responding, not that the radar return blip is gone. Transponders have other modes of communication I'm skipping over. More at the site. We will find out what happened but I don't think anything concrete will be known for another 48 hours.

Great commercial

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I am very much a Ford driver but this is an awesome commercial nonetheless:

Lulu's ear

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Got two photos of Lulu's wound from last Saturday at 3:00AM Posted below the fold:

Download speeds

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I am downloading updates to some software I use regularly (Cakewalk Sonar -- been a customer for 20 years). I love the product and I love the company but I really wish that they would spring for some faster servers. I paid for each upgrade to the software so they have my money several times over. When downloading several gigs of new files, it would be nice to see speeds faster than 600Kbps to 1Mbps especially when, while downloading the file, I can run the Speakeasy Speed Test and score 5.95Mbps There is a trade-off as I only do a major upgrade every couple of years but it should not have to be this painful...

The new Subaru commercial

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And the making of it. The word you are looking for is stickbomb...
Having the lil' guy run through the legs of those C-Stands was a touch of self-referential filmmaking fun.
Lulu's ear is healing up nicely -- no infection and the swelling is going down. She really whacked herself! Did the store buying run into town. Had to stop at a couple extra vendors so it took a little bit longer than usual. Fixing dinner (picked up a ham in town) and will surf and post in an hour or two. Also working on some music stuff.

Cosmos revisited

Looking forward to tonight's show. Dr. Tyson is a great presenter and filming has come a long way in the last twenty years. The commercials they are showing have little clips of Tardigrades -- I hope they spend some time with them. I love the little critters and they have a fascinating biology. We have them up here but you need a microscope to really explore them. Love the warning from this website:
Please note the following mental and health risks: in some case addictive behaviour towards tardigrades has been noted. And, even worse, young people showed an increased interest in non-commercial, zoological and even philosophical topics. As a rule excited readers can be successfully calmed down by means of scholarly biology lectures, e.g. featuring the properties of Allium cepa or the difference between mitosis and meiosis. Please be warned that it might be unwise to mention tardigrades in presence of those biology teachers who have never heard of them. We do not want to be held responsible for nervous breakdowns or any other possible consequences that might be caused by tardigrade mentioning.
Now this looks fun -- from Kickstarter:
The Open Enigma Project
Imagine having this iconic device on your desk: You can use it to simply display a scrolling marquee of any text message on its unique LED screen or encrypt/decrypt any information you wish using (still today) a very secure key. This is an ideal device to teach or learn about encryption, history & math. Because of its open software & the community of developers, the possibilities are endless & your reward is bound to increase in value over time as new applications (like e-mail encryption, secure router, etc) are written.

The original (pre-war) Enigma code was initially broken in Poland and subsequently by a team of Bletchley Park cryptologists under the leadership of U.K.'s own Alan Turing who is one of the fathers of computer science. Bletchley Park's ability to break the Enigma code is believed to have shortened World War II by about 2 years. Enigma machines are an extremely rare and important part of computing history. A real Enigma machine sold for $200,000 in 2011.

Transforming a prototype into a production unit takes a lot of effort, time & MONEY. This is where you come in! Whether you are brand new to the world of Encryption or a seasoned Cryptologist, whether you know every detail of the German Enigma's story or it's news to you, YOU can help us write it's future.
They have raised over $15K of their $20K goal and they have 23 days remaining in the project.

Fun at the farm - hot water woes

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Lulu was running a tub and called down asking if we had any hot water left. Checked and the new heater output pipe was at 57�F The puppy is a Bradford-White -- top of the line. We will wait 20 minutes and see what happens - had a nice hot shower around 9:00AM and ran a load of dishes around noon but that should not have caused this problem three hours later...

Climate Change and Metaphor

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From Anthony Watts:
Why climate change communications is like �Shaka, when the walls fell�
With the pending climate pajamafest all-nighter at the U.S. Senate, (powered by the Washington DC coal burning power plant) the release of former NASA scientists and engineers Right Climate Stuff message that there is no need to be worried about CAGW, and Bill McKibben�s empty boxes fiasco, these loosely related events coalesced into a moment of understanding last night after I watched what is probably my favorite episode of Star Trek, The Next Generation titled �Darmok�.
Excellent writing - Anthony provides the plot for the episode and continues with this:
I�m sure readers can see the parallels with climate change debate and its communications problems. One side repeatedly uses metaphors, imagery, and emotional attachments to convey the urgency of fighting the often invisible and fleeting �beast of the planet�, while the other side keeps asking pointed questions, tries to analyze what is being said and the situation, and tries to learn the language of the other side, even though it seems nonsensical. Neither side seems to get much from the other.
Much more at the site. I find this to be true on a personal level when talking with progressives. Their side is always a narrative, not factual. It is how it should be not how to make this happen. When they talk about something and you present a fact that contradicts their narrative, they will always change the subject and when you try to return to the point, they will employ an ad hominem logical fallacy -- attacking me as 'I just don't know' or some such... This is compounded by the fact that all of the talking points of the CAGW crowd come from computer models and not boots-on-the-ground measurements. These models can not hindcast, their forecasts show no bearing with reality yet, these numbers are clung to with desperation. Time to get some adults in the room.

Three years ago - Fukushima Daiichi

From the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists:

Prologue to catastrophe
In this article, a worker at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station gives his eyewitness account of what happened there on March 11, 2011, in the immediate wake of a massive earthquake and tsunami that caused three of the station's reactor cores to melt.

From the account:

I first felt the earthquake as I walked from the vicinity of Units 5 and 6 - which are located near the ocean to the site's entrance gate. Suddenly, the asphalt began to ripple, and I couldn't stay on my feet. In a panic, I looked around and saw a 120-meter exhaust duct shaking violently and looking like it would rupture at any second. Cracks began to appear on the outside of Unit 5's turbine building and on the inside of the entryway to the unit's service building. The air was filled with clouds of dirt.

When the shaking subsided, more than 200 workers, who had been on the ocean side of the plant, came rushing to the gate. To protect the facility, anyone entering or leaving by the gate had to pass through a metal detector.

"Let us out of here," we yelled. "A tsunami may be coming!" Screams and shouts filled the air.

"Wait for instructions from the radiation safety group," demanded a security guard.

This response angered the workers. When an earthquake had struck the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa Nuclear Power Plant [in 2007], some workers had jumped over the gate to flee - and they were later charged for having "broken the law."

After keeping us waiting for a few minutes, the guard collected our APDs [alarm-equipped pocket radiation meters] and our ID cards and instructed that we "all seek refuge." I headed for the earthquake-resistant building; however, when I arrived, a ruptured ground pipe was spraying water like a geyser and had caused a mudslide that covered the stairs - which, from top to bottom, spanned some 20 to 30 meters. When I reached the operational headquarters, numerous windows on the second floor had shattered, and the blinds were flapping about in the wind. Three or four cooling towers on the roof had either fallen or were tilted over. Considering that the walls of the newly constructed Units 5 and 6 had been damaged, I figured that Units 1 through 4, which were older, must have been in even worse shape.

The Crisis Center on the second floor was jam-packed. As we watched the news on TV, we were first worried about the Onagawa Nuclear Plant. NHK News showed aerial helicopter footage of a tsunami hitting fields in Natori City in Miyagi Prefecture [in northeastern Japan, where the Onagawa Nuclear Power Plant is located, more than 200 miles from Tokyo]. But then a section chief came rushing up to Fukushima's plant manager, Masao Yoshida, and reported: "A tank [has] been washed away and had sunk into the ocean."

We all went pale with shock: The tank that had been lost was a surge tank of suppression pool water at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station.

An amazing story -- how something as huge as a power generation plant could be brought down by the earthquake and the tsunami. The joke of the matter is that while they were worried about the status of the Onagawa Power Plant, that Plant had withstood the earthquake so well that it was serving as a refuge for the entire town. The Onagawa plant was built to withstand bigger tsunamis - 30 feet (9 meters) - than Fukushima's 18 feet (5.4 meters). It's first reactor came online June 1, 1984, Fukushima March 26, 1971. Only thirteen years separating the two but a world of engineering differences. It can be done right and be safe. Other designs (Thorium/molten salt) are intrinsically safe and can not melt down. I remember the night when the news came in -- I subscribe to an Earthquake email list and received notification just before midnight on March 10th.

Lulu is feeling a lot better.

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The bruising is starting to show -- I'll post a photo later. She is in great spirits and feeling pretty good (better living through chemistry). Planning a quiet day today. I have a couple low-priority projects at the house so I'll be busting those out.

A matter of perspective

I knew the numbers were something like this but didn't have the exact data. Fortunately, someone did:
Hat tip to Maggie's Farm for the link (via ACE).

Sound asleep

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Lulu is by nature more of a morning person than I am. She is upstairs with some good pain meds and a general antibiotic. Surfing for a little while and then an early bedtime myself. She is looking a lot better -- color in her face and her skin temp is now back to normal. Shock has its biological functions but it is something that needs to be monitored carefully. Also, the staff at Saint Joseph's Hospital in Bellingham were amazing -- everyone there was really attentive and top notch. The ER was fairly busy but we got really good triage and care.

An unexpected wakeup call

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Was in bed and Lulu woke me up at 3:00AM She was letting Finnegan (our deaf and blind Brittany Spaniel) out and fell and hit her head. I took a look at it and she had split her ear completely open and got a bad gash in her head. Grabbed an ice pack and we did a fast drive into the ER. Got back around 11:00AM this morning. Slept for a few hours and now, she is propped up watching TV and reading. Researching on the web about removing dried blood from hair -- the go-to suggestion is peroxide but her hair is already really light so will try some oil first and see if that works. Posting will be light today as I want to keep an eye on her. Sometimes shit happens.

Hell yeah - Skynet in 3.. 2.. 1..

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Seen three SRL shows - S.F. twice and Seattle. This tiny screen fails to convey the power. Google really needs to do this - it would be like having a Court Jester and most successful monarchies had several of these in the inner circle. Keeping things balanced out... After all, England has Prince Charles.

Big Green gets taken down a notch

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Great story from James Delingpole at Breitbart:
Chevron vs Big Green: Capitalism Finally Grows a Pair
This week the environmental movement suffered its biggest defeat since Climategate. And at the hands of its most hated enemy: Big Oil.

Here are the reasons why the court ruling by a US federal judge that Chevron should not have to pay $9.5 billion in damages to victims of oil pollution in Ecuador is a victory for common sense and justice which we should all be celebrating.

1. It's not about David v Goliath.
Though, of course, that's how it was spun by the left-liberal media: on the one hand, plucky maverick New York lawyer Steven Donziger, representing thousands of Ecuadorean natives whose forest lands had been polluted; on the other, the oil giant Chevron, America's third largest company.

But if anyone was being bullied here, it was Chevron. As Donziger well knew, it is almost impossible for an oil company to get a fair hearing in a world brainwashed by environmentalist propaganda. Chevron knew this too. It could have settled for much less out of court - and most oil companies in its position probably would have done. However, Chevron's chief executive John S Watson took the bold and principled decision to fight it all the way.

2. Chevron had done nothing wrong. No really.
The damage was done in the Sixties, Seventies and Eighties in the Oriente region of Ecuador by Texaco and the national oil company Petroecuador.

Texaco later reached a settlement with the Ecuadorian government whereby it paid $40 million to clear up the 37 per cent of oil damage for which it accepted responsibility; the rest were assumed to be the responsibility of the Ecuador national oil company (which didn't clear up its share).

Chevron has never drilled in Ecuador. But when a Chevron subsidiary absorbed Texaco in 2001 it became a target for environmentalists who still held Texaco partly responsible for the remaining pollution.
More at the site including the following:
  1. The case against Chevron was rigged.
  2. Read the ruling: it's great entertainment!
  3. Donziger's dodgy past.
  4. Green Greed
  5. Green parasites.
  6. The complicit media: if it's green it must be good.
  7. The usual rent-a-celeb suspects weigh in...
  8. Big Green sticks its oar in too.
  9. Green hubris.
Nice to see some push-back -- hope that this is the beginning of a landslide...

Lake Michigan

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Great photos of an ice-encrusted lighthouse. From Michigan Live:
Ice-encrusted Michigan lighthouse photos: Meet the photographer behind the viral images
The lighthouses on Lake Michigan at St. Joseph and South Haven are famous round the world today, thanks to stunning photos of the structures encrusted in ice shot over the past few years by an Indiana photographer whose works are making the rounds on social networking this week.

"It's been unbelievable," said Thomas Zakowski, 56, of South Bend, a self-employed construction worker who has been shooting photos since he was a freshman in high school. "I've just been watching it unfold on the internet."

"Frozen in time: Michigan lighthouses transformed into stunning giant icicles after being frozen solid by storm" is the headline of the story by Simon Tomlinson in the MailOnline, an online publication of the United Kingdom updated at 11:01 a.m. Monday, Jan. 6.
Here is one of them -- gorgeous stuff!
More photos at the link.

Heh - Vladimir and Leonardo

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Updates to the Blogroll

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Finally got around to pruning the Blogroll to the right of the screen. Removed a bunch of entries that were no longer active and updated some links. More later...

When you asssume

Great one from Randal today:

Celebrating her 59th birthday. I am 63 so this is a really good match. We had lots of similar experiences growing up so there is a strong cultural core. It has been an amazing couple of years and looking forward to many more birthdays together! Just took a flourless chocolate cake out of the oven and reducing some raspberry sauce. Dinner is a nice chunk of seared Ahi with rice and some garlic aioli and pickled ginger. Sesame salad and cake for desert.
Talk about landslide -- from Joel Kotkin:
Energy Running Out of California
The recent decision by Occidental Petroleum to move its headquarters to Houston from Los Angeles, where it was founded over a half-century ago, confirms the futility and delusion embodied in California's ultragreen energy policies. By embracing solar and wind as preferred sources of generating power, the state promotes an ever-widening gap between its declining middle- and working-class populations and a smaller, self-satisfied group of environmental campaigners and their corporate backers.

Talk to people who work in the fossil-fuel industry, and they tell you they feel ostracized and even hated; to be an oil firm in California is like being a pork producer in an ultra-Orthodox section of Jerusalem. One top industry executive told me that many of his colleagues in California cringe at the prospect of being attacked by politicians and activists as something akin to war criminals. �I wouldn't subject my kids to that environment,� the Gulf Coast-based oilman suggested.

What matters here is not the hurt feelings of energy executives, but a massive lost opportunity to create loads of desperately needed jobs, particularly for blue-collar workers. The nation may be undergoing a massive �energy revolution,� based largely on new supplies of oil and, particularly, cleaner natural gas, but California so far has decided not to play.

In all but forcing out fossil-fuel firms, California is shedding one of its historic core industries. Not long ago, California was home to a host of top 10 energy firms � ARCO, Getty Oil, Union Oil, Oxy and Chevron; in 1970, oil firms constituted the five largest industrial companies in the state. Now, only Chevron, which has been reducing its headcount in Northern California and is clearly shifting its emphasis to Texas, will remain.
I can not understand what the state is doing. Their policies have put them into a position of needing money. They raise taxes. The more successful a business is, the more taxes it pays. Tax a business enough and it will pull up stakes and move to a more business-friendly state. Lather, rinse, repeat and all of a sudden, the state still needs money and it's tax-base has shrunk so it needs to raise taxes even more. They need to look at the Laffer Curve and ditch their Keynesian practices. Keynes was a fool -- the Austrians rule!

Meet Torvosaurus gurneyi

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James Gurney is one of my favorite artists. He came to my attention with his Dinotopia series and his blog is a daily read for me. It seems that other people also noticed Dinotopia. From James' post:
Torvosaurus gurneyi


Today a new dinosaur is being introduced to the world, and I'm thrilled and honored that that the paleontologists decided to name it after me. It's called Torvosaurus gurneyi.

The dinosaur, which was discovered in Portugal, is one of the largest carnivorous dinosaurs from the Jurassic and the largest land-predator discovered in Europe.

Lead author Christophe Hendrickx of the Universidade Nova de Lisboa and Museu of Lourinh� says, �With a skull of 115 cm, Torvosaurus gurneyi active predator that hunted other large dinosaurs, as evidenced by blade shape teeth up to 10 cm.�

Mr. Hendrickx says he chose the name because of a childhood fascination with the book that I wrote and illustrated called Dinotopia: A Land Apart from Time.

When I introduced Dinotopia more than 22 years ago, I received many letters from young children who said they wanted to become artists or paleontologists. It gives me great pleasure to hear from some of them all these years later and to find out that they're doing for a living what they dreamed about as kids.
Very cool - I was fascinated by the Dintopia books when they first came out. Still have them. Gorgeous work and a strong science background.

Waking up to Bacon

Now this is wonderful - from Mashable:

Bacon-Scented Alarm App Gives iPhones a Meaty Overhaul
Oscar Mayer is giving meat fans the chance to wake up to the sound -- and smell -- of bacon every morning.

The company's Wake Up and Smell the Bacon app and iPhone dongle, which unfortunately contains no actual bacon, is a complete bacon-themed overhaul of your iPhone's alarm.

The dongle plugs into the iPhone's headphone jack and, when paired with the accompanying iOS app, releases the smell of bacon as the alarm sounds.

"With nearly two million mentions of #bacon on Instagram, it seems people never get tired of bacon. That;s why our team decided to develop a device to give folks what they long for most," said Tom Bick, senior director of integrated marketing and advertising at Oscar Mayer in a statement. "As the category leader, Oscar Mayer is thrilled to bring the first-ever, bacon-scented mobile device to market, giving bacon aficionados a new reason to welcome their morning alarm clocks."

Wonderful! Alas:

Oscar Mayer is only making a limited number of devices, which won't be available for sale. Fans will have to apply for a shot at winning one of the dongles by taking a quiz on Oscar Mayer's website. The contest runs through April 4 and winners will receive their bacon-scented devices within six to eight weeks.

The contest is the latest project out of the Oscar Mayer Institute for the Advancement of Bacon, a "consortium of the world's greatest bacon minds dedicated to unlocking the bacon's deepest mysteries for the benefit of bacon lovers everywhere."

I be the demand will be high enough that they will have Foxcon start mass producing them. Great idea.

A very kindred spirit

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Meet Doug Coulter:
More at Motherboard:
The DIY Engineer Who Built a Nuclear Reactor in His Basement
Some people�myself not excluded�go to an office everyday because they can't think of anywhere else to go. We practice the prompt repression of wild ideas in exchange for remunerative employment, which to some is considered to be a kind of meaningful existence. Doug Coulter is not that sort of worker.

He may have started out behind a desk when he worked in the security business as a beltway bandit, coming up with signal processing and radio gadgets for our favorite three-lettered intelligence agencies, but in recent years, Doug's chosen to explore his engineering interests in the isolated backwoods of Virginia, absent from any pesky boss or sticky bureaucracy.

Doug's gone from being paid to play with other people's expensive toys to making his own. And although he may call them toys because of the amount of fun he derives from them, his creations are hardly ordinary playthings. Then again, Doug is no ordinary man.
Doug runs the forum Coultersmithing. Hat tip to Gerard for the link. Thank you!
I had posted another video of Starlings back in January. Here is another one -- a wonderful thing to see:

Quote of the month

From Ivan Ilyin writing at The Belmont Club:

I was on talk radio today and a kind of sadness seemed to hang in the air; a realization that something has gone missing -- perhaps forever. It was overlaid by an angry shame that the president -- whatever or how little you thought of him -- could be shrunk to such a size, and by extension the country he represented.

It's an atmospheric thing. Suddenly, without any warning, Washington no longer seems so much like the center of the universe. Those who inhabit it, who understand status even if they know nothing else, feel the demotion. Now it's as if people got up this morning determined to understand why the world seems so much bigger and their offices so much smaller.

Much more at the site - quite a well written analysis.

Bumping off the banksters

A curious development -- from FOX News:

Bitcoin firm CEO found dead in suspected suicide
It appears bitcoin's recent turmoil has claimed its first life.

Autumn Ratke a 28-year-old American CEO of bitcoin exchange firm First Meta was found dead in her Singapore apartment on Feb. 28.

With Mt. Gox going bankrupt and $460 Million USD worth of Bitcoins evaporating, it's no wonder that other Bitcoin repositories would get stressed. Ms. Ratke death is pending investigation. It isn't just Bitcoins though -- a bit more:

Ratke's death brings the number of questionable financial sector deaths this year to eight. On Feb. 18 a 33-year-old JPMorgan finance pro leaped to his death the roof of the JPMorgan's 30-story Hong Kong office tower.

Li Junjie's suicide marked the third mysterious death of a JPMorgan banker. So far, there is no other known link between any of the deaths.

Gabriel Magee, 39, a vice president with the JPMorgan's corporate and investment bank technology arm in the UK, also jumped to his death from the roof of the bank's 33-story Canary Wharf tower in London on Jan. 28.

On Feb. 3, Ryan Henry Crane, 37, a JPM executive director who worked in New York, was found dead inside his Stamford, Conn., home.

Curious - I wonder whose hand is behind all this...

Right up there with the jet pack

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Brought to you by the fine folks at HUVr Tech Dammit -- they promised me a jet pack. I want my jet pack!
I had wondered the following:
What with President Stompy Feet and Sec. State Lurch getting played, what happens if we do something that pisses Putin off.
From Yahoo/Reuters:
Russia test-fires ICBM amid tension over Ukraine
Russia said it had successfully test-fired an Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) on Tuesday, with tensions running high over its military intervention in Ukraine's Crimea region.
The Strategic Rocket Forces launched an RS-12M Topol missile from the southerly Astrakhan region and the dummy warhead hit its target at a proving ground in Kazakhstan, Defence Ministry spokesman Igor Yegorov told state-run news agency RIA.
The launch site, Kapustin Yar, is near the Volga River about 450 km (280 miles) east of the Ukrainian border. Kazakhstan, a Russian ally in a post-Soviet security grouping, is further to the east.
Emphasis mine. Putin is dominating the situation. From Denny:

A good cause

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From Indiegogo:
Astronomy Legacy Project
Before the invention of digital cameras in the 1990's, and for more than 120 years before that, astronomers put in several million telescope hours photographing the night sky - measuring star brightnesses, detecting comets, planets, nebulae, mapping our Galaxy, and building the foundations of our understanding of our Universe! All of this raw beauty, and secrets yet to be discovered, are held as largely unexplored photographic images on thin, fragile pieces of glass. Imagine digitizing these hundreds of thousands of photographic images with such high precision that the images appearing on your screen replicates the original. This digitization process is the heart of the Astronomy Legacy Project.
This project is based out of the amazing Pisgah Astronomical Research Institute in North Carolina. The group was able to take over a major NASA tracking station complete with instrumentation. They are also the repository for the Astronomical Photographic Data Archive (APDA) -- a collection of over 220,000 images that they are looking to digitize. Go to Indiegogo and donate some money -- this is crowdfunded science at its best.

An unintended consequence

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What with President Stompy Feet and Sec. State Lurch getting played, what happens if we do something that pisses Putin off. One thought from Michael Belfiore writing at Popular Mechanics:
What Happens If Russia Refuses to Fly U.S. Astronauts?
With tensions escalating between Russia and Ukraine, the pressure is on President Obama to do more than issue stern warnings to the Russian government. Economic sanctions are one possible action, but one that could put the squeeze not only on Russia but also the U.S. manned space program.

Since the space shuttle retired in 2011, NASA has had no native human spaceflight capability. With no other options, NASA has relied on the Russian Federal Space Agency and its Soyuz rockets and spacecraft to get astronauts to and from the International Space Station, at a cost of tens of millions of dollars per seat. Any strong move by the U.S. in response to the Crimean crisis could spell the end of Americans flying on Russian spaceships, at least until tensions ease. NASA and its commercial partners have some projects in the works that can fill the gap, should Russia refuse to fly our astronauts. But these are at least two to three years from operational status. Depending on how the Russian-Ukraine crisis develops, those could be two to three years with no Americans in space.
That would suck. I still find it amazing that we have no way to get a person into orbit -- we were the champions and we pissed it away. At its height, the NASA budget was a percent or two of the national budget -- we could find that money in the congressional sofa seats with a little digging but no...

About those green buildings

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Not so much -- from The Daily Caller:
Report: DC�s green-approved buildings using more energy
Washington, D.C. may have the highest number of certified green buildings in the country, but research by Environmental Policy Alliance suggests it might not be doing much good.

The free-market group analyzed the first round of energy usage data released by city officials Friday and found that large, privately-owned buildings that received the green energy certification Leadership in Energy Design (LEED) actually use more energy than buildings that didn�t receive this green stamp of approval.
Take the Green Building Council�s Washington headquarters. Replete with the group�s top green-energy accolade, the platinum LEED certification, the USGBC�s main base comes in at 236 EUI. The average EUI for uncertified buildings in the capital? Just 199.
The research was done by a group called LEED Exposed Lots more at the site -- it is a scam. A lot of what they look for has no bearing on energy usage. The EPA has a similar program called Energy Star and some buildings certified as LEED green buildings fail to receive the EPA�s Energy Star seal. Most Federal buildings now have to be rated by this organization so our tax dollars are being wasted. Again, the site has a lot of hard data and links -- LEED is a scam.

It's bad - labor participation rate

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How's that economy going? From CNS News:
Labor Force Participation in 2013 Lowest in 35 Years
The average annual labor force participation rate hit a 35-year-low of 63.2 percent in the United States in 2013, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The last time the average annual labor force participation rate was that low was in in 1978, when it was also 63.2 percent. Jimmy Carter was president then.

The BLS bases its employment statistics on the civilian noninstitutional population, which consists of all people in the United States 16 or older who are not on active duty in the military or in an institution such as a prison, nursing home or mental hospital. The labor force participation rate is the percentage of people in the civilian noninstitutional population who either had a job or who actively sought one in the previous four weeks.
And they want to grant amnesty to 15 million illegal immigrants because "we need the workers". Believe that and I have a bridge to sell you...
This about sums it up - President Stompy Feet is having his entrails handed to him and he is simply not aware.

Oh this is priceless

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From The Hill:
Green group accuses GOP of 'environmental racism'
House Republicans are being accused of �environmental racism� by an environmental group that argues GOP efforts to reform decades-old chemical laws would disproportionately harm minority groups.
Shimkus argues his bill would free up resources to focus on the most dangerous chemical threats, but the liberal Environmental Justice Health Alliance says it would end up hurting minority groups by moving resources away from policing the threats in their neighborhoods.
OK - so we now have two rules. #1) - Any University course that has the word "Studies" in its description is irrelevant. #2) - Any Organization that has the word "Justice" in its name is irrelevant. These people are so stupid and foolish. They actually think they are doing good work when all they are doing is manufacturing work for lawyers and massive quantities of CO2

Practice what you preach

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From the UK Guardian:
Cameron aide arrested over allegations relating to child abuse images
A senior aide to David Cameron resigned from Downing Street last month the day before being arrested on allegations relating to child abuse images.

Patrick Rock, who was involved in drawing up the government's policy for the large internet firms on online pornography filters, resigned after No 10 was alerted to the allegations.
What is it about politicians that makes them think that they are above it all. The rules are for thee and not for me...

That's it for the night

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Got another early day tomorrow.

Just in time

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Got the new heat pump installed just in time -- weather forecast calls for freezing rain and potential flooding. Happy happy happy...

Log splitter

Riffing on the furnace ups and downs, I ran into this video of a real widow maker:

OK enough for general use but trip over something and put out a hand to steady yourself and it's all over. I would use an eccentric cam on the main shaft to extend and retract the splitting knife. A lot safer -- log in place, foot on pedal and whammo.

Nice and warm

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With all that has been going on with our furnace, it was time to bite the bullet and get a heat pump installed. The crew just left and the house is heating up wonderfully. This will cut propane costs down a lot plus, for those two weeks in summer when we need air conditioning, we will have it. Modern technology is a wonderful thing.

Another one from Michael Ramirez

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He nails it:
Click to embiggen.
Ramirez's website is at Investors Business Daily And a tip of the hat to The Silicon Graybeard.

Just Dam!

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From the Seattle Times:
�Serious problem�: 65-foot crack found in Columbia River dam
A massive crack in a major Columbia River dam poses enough of a risk of dam failure that Grant County authorities have activated an emergency-response plan.

Officials said there is no threat to the public from the crack in the Wanapum Dam, which is just down stream from where Interstate 90 crosses the river.

But utility managers are lowering water levels a total of 20 feet because they fear the structure otherwise could endanger inspectors trying to get a better handle on how seriously the dam is damaged.
A bit more:
Earlier this week, an engineer noticed a slight irregular �bowing� above the spillway gates near where cars can drive across the dam.
If I saw a "slight bowing" in a structure this big (the dam is about a mile long), I would need multiple sets of clean underwear. Holy crap! The Grant County Public Utilities District is monitoring this. The dam provides electricity, flood control, agricultural water and allows for barge traffic up the Columbia River.

In 2007, the Nobel Peace Prize was shared by Al Gore and the body known as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

The IPCC subsequently issued suitable-for-framing letters to its various members thanking them for contributing to the award of the Nobel Peace Prize to the IPCC.


People are starting to claim that prize for themselves despite a strongly worded memo from the IPCC itself. Specifically:

The prize was awarded to the IPCC as an organization, and not to any individual associated with the IPCC. Thus it is incorrect to refer to any IPCC official, or scientist who worked on IPCC reports, as a Nobel laureate or Nobel Prize winner. It would be correct to describe a scientist who was involved with AR4 or earlier IPCC reports in this way: "X contributed to the reports of the IPCC, which was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007."

The IPCC leadership agreed to present personalized certificates "for contributing to the award of the Nobel Peace Prize for 2007 to the IPCC" to scientists that had contributed substantially to the preparation of IPCC reports. Such certificates, which feature a copy of the Nobel Peace Prize diploma, were sent to coordinating lead authors, lead authors, review editors, Bureau members, staff of the technical support units and staff of the secretariat from the IPCC�s inception in 1988 until the award of the prize in 2007.

Dr. Woodrow Clark needs to reign himself in and not represent himself as something he is most assuredly not. There is an Energy Conference in Toronto, Canada in April and their keynote speaker? From the All-Energy Canada website:

Nobel Peace Prize winner is keynote speaker for All-Energy Canada Conference
The All-Energy Canada organizers are delighted to announce that Dr. Woodrow (Woody) W. Clark II will make a strategic Canadian appearance as the Keynote speaker on April 9th, 2014.

Canadian investigative journalist Donna Laframboise has the links to show that this is not just an isolated case of misrepresentation and fraud. Visit her site at No Frakking Consensus. Oh, and by the say, Dr. Clark is an economist and not a climate scientist. Just sayin' UPDATE: Donna has another post with some more details. Turns out he is claiming to have been a big fish when, in reality, he was a co-author for one article in one chapter of a minor IPCC report and he served as a review editor in a second chapter of the same minor report. His name turns up nowhere else in the IPCC.

Snow again

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Got a phone call from an employee -- her truck is not working and she needed a lift into work. We have about six inches on the ground with another six to ten forecast through Monday AM. Fun fun fun...

More news from Everett, WA

Not just that one store -- from the Everett Daily Herald:
Second smoke shop raided in probe of food-stamp fraud
Another day, another raid on a north Everett smoke shop.

A steady stream of customers to the Tobacco Hut at 1917 Broadway was turned away Wednesday afternoon while Everett police and state social services investigators searched the store for evidence of possible food-stamp fraud.

Store owner Nadeem Ahmed Pasha, 39, was arrested. Police say they found a state food-benefits card belonging to someone else in his wallet.

�We found evidence of more fraud,� Everett police Lt. Jim Duffy said, standing outside the business while investigators inside pored over business receipts, examined inventory and confiscated suspected illegal drugs.
And some great news:
Among other things, investigators from the state Department of Social and Health Services will be contacting people whose cards were seized Wednesday. They could lose their benefits and face criminal charges.
No mention of the nation of origin for Nadeem Ahmed Pasha and one of the commenters had this wonderful idea:
Suggestion to the Police Departments. When they raid shops like these, just haul off he owner and then put your own "clerks" in the shop for the rest of the day. Arrest those that come in to sell their EBT cards. If the store has a back door, just arrest them and hustle them out the back into a waiting "jail bus", My guess is that there'll be a steady stream of those selling the EBT cards or stolen merchandise. Don't just go for the owner, go for the rest of the offenders as well.

Do this enough and those who are selling these cards or shoplifted merchandise won't know if they're going into a store where they'll be arrested or not. Put a little fear into that crowd for a change.
Doing this a couple times would cut fraud down to a minimum. People get greedy if they see that there is no cost involved. Implement a cost and watch the fraud decline...

Food stamp fraud in Everett, WA

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A big town about 60 miles due South of Bellingham, WA - from the Everett Daily Herald:
Everett store raided in food-stamp investigation
A police raid on a downtown mini-mart Tuesday morning was the culmination of a 17-month investigation into food-stamp fraud.

Fraz A. �Tony� Mushtaq, 34, the owner of the A One Smoke & Grocery store at Everett and Colby avenues, is suspected of paying people cents on the dollar for access to their state food-benefits cards.

He also is under investigation for allegedly buying and selling merchandise shoplifted from area stores, money laundering and selling an illegal form of synthetic marijuana known as �spice,� police say.

Everett police believe a significant amount of the store�s inventory has been ill-gotten, said Lt. Jim Duffy, who leads the special investigations unit.

The police department has received complaints about the store for several years, he said.
A bit more:
The investigation started gaining momentum in fall 2012 when police established a relationship with an informant who reportedly was delivering stolen goods to the store.

�That opened the door for us,� Duffy said.

Police believe the amount of stolen merchandise moved through the store, including pop, energy drinks and cigarettes, could total in the millions of dollars. Careful financial investigation has documented hundreds of thousands of dollars in questionable transactions, Duffy said.
And they pulled out the stops:
The U.S. Department of Agriculture�s Office of Inspector General assisted with the investigation. So did the U.S. Marshals Service and the U.S. Attorney�s Office.

Local grocery stores, including Safeway and QFC, donated merchandise for undercover detectives to sell to Mushtaq as part of the sting. The USDA also supplied �undercover� food-stamp cards.
A bit more:
During the investigation, Mushtaq was seen on multiple occasions carrying stacks of the food cards, each wrapped with a piece of paper with the PIN numbers and details about the balance, according to police. One stack of cards was described as a half-inch thick.

Records showed his store computer equipment was used to check balances on cards more than 500 times. That involved more than 300 cards over about 18 months, police say. It�s unusual for a cardholder to check the balance at a location and then not make a purchase, according to investigators. After checking the balance at his store, Mushtaq then allegedly would make a large purchase at a bigger store.
Follow the money:
Mushtaq is from Pakistan and became a U.S. citizen a couple of years ago, Duffy said. Investigators believe he was sending money from his store back home to Pakistan.

They found no evidence the money was being used there for any improper activities, Duffy said.
Emphasis mine -- yeah riiiight... I bet the Feds would have a different story if they weren't being led by such incompetent swivel-headed loons. I hope the two of them spend a long time behind bars and then get deported. This is not a matter of a mistake or poor education, this is abject fraud.

Cool video software

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If you have an existing video and you want to track the movements in it, check out Tracker -- the video analysis and modeling tool Tracker is part of the Open Source Physics (OSP) Java framework which has some other very cool tools...

Events in Ukraine

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From the Czar of Muscovy writing at the Ancient and Noble Order of the Gormogons:
Russia, Crimea, the Ukraine: Why the Mess is So Messy
The American media is doing a really poor job of covering the Ukraine crisis, and this is largely because they ignored its importance for so long that they are scrambling to catch everyone up, what with gays not getting timely service from bakers and photographers and all.

Thus far, the media have portrayed this as a simple game of interests: Russia likes the Ukraine and wants the Ukraine to be friendly to Russia; conversely, Ukrainians want to be friends with Europe. Vladimir Putin, only two weeks ago a real hero to Olympic commentators, is not happy with this and has sent his military in to show he means business.

This summary is not quite accurate. The reality goes back centuries to the Russian Empire.
An excellent analysis - the Czar closes with this:
The reality is that President Obama has checked out, and is now an utterly impotent fool. He wants nothing to do with foreign policy and has -- at a remarkably coincidental time -- ordered a massive reduction in force for the military.

What Obama fails to realize of course is that his disinterest, ignorance, and disregard has accelerated this event. The chaos he sees happening around the world is in direct response to his intellectual disarmament. President Obama is the kid on the playground that thinks if he acts indifferent to the bullies and victims alike, they will be inspired by his cool attitude and want to be more like him. He is predictably baffled when he sees this has the opposite effect.

This is not in any way to blame the crisis in the Ukraine on President Obama. The real culprit is Vladimir Putin, who is mistaken when he assumes his plans cannot fail. Unfortunately for the world, Putin is not mistaken when he thinks he has no opposition.
We will survive but it will be a long claw back to the top of the heap. The good news is that people are so fed up with the current big government that we have a good chance of getting some adults in the room this November.

The Cold War is heating up again

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And President Stompy Feet is doing nothing. From Yahoo/Reuters:
Upper house to demand recall of Moscow ambassador to U.S.
Russia's upper house of parliament will ask President Vladimir Putin to recall Moscow's ambassador from the United States, the chamber's speaker said on Saturday.

Valentina Matviyenko, the head of the Federation Council, asked the Council's Committee on Foreign Affairs to draw up a proposal setting out the demands to Putin.
All the while -- from the Weekly Standard:
Obama Skips National Security Team Meeting on Russia, Ukraine
A White House official emailed some reporters to say that President Obama's team met today to discuss the ongoing situation on Ukraine. It appears President Obama did not attend.
Excuse me Barry but attending meetings like this is part of your fscking JOB! I don't care if it doesn't fit in with your tee time.

Cool technology - the airship

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From the Beeb:
World's longest aircraft is unveiled in UK
The world's longest aircraft has just been unveiled in Britain's biggest aircraft hangar.

At first, you might mistake it for a giant airship - gas-filled balloon on top, pod slung underneath.

But the unique, aerodynamic shape of the balloon - it looks as if a series of cigars have been sewn together - means it can also generate lift just like an aeroplane wing.

That is key, because it enables the designers to make the machine heavier than air, which cuts the need to have dozens of crew hanging on to ropes holding it down every time you land.
And the guy behind the project and their plans:
All of which will be welcome news to one of the project's high-profile investors, Bruce Dickinson.

He is one of those people who can't stop achieving stuff.

As if being the lead singer of one of the world's most successful and enduring rock bands, Iron Maiden, was not enough, he is also an airline pilot, businessman, and is investing in this project.
He wants to drum up publicity with the kind of trip Richard Branson would dream up. A non-stop flight around the world - twice.

"It seizes my imagination. I want to get in this thing and fly it pole to pole," he says.

"We'll fly over the Amazon at 20ft, over some of the world's greatest cities and stream the whole thing on the internet."
That Amazon trip would be incredible -- someone is having a lot of fun!

Busy morning

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Was sleeping in and got a call from the VP of our local water board. We had an Annual General Meeting scheduled for (I thought) next Saturday morning. Turns out it was this Saturday morning. DOH! Good thing I was sleeping in as I am scheduled to head into town to pick up some stuff and I would have been on the road if I was up earlier. A quick lunch and off to Bellingham for a few hours...

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